On Saturday 27 August, Arek Jozwik, a Polish national living in Harlow, Essex, was attacked by a large group and beaten to death. Six teenagers aged 15-16 have been arrested in connection with the murder.
On Friday 2 September, after a vigil organised by the Polish community and attended by thousands, two more Polish men were attacked. It seems likely that these attacks were racially motivated. Some have linked the attacks to the rise in anti-migrant sentiment after the Brexit vote — Harlow voted 3:1 to leave the EU. Clearly not all people with xenophobic and racist ideas go out and beat people up, and not everyone in Harlow who voted for Brexit is racist. But endless tabloid headlines attacking migrants, with both Tory and Labour MPs peddling anti-migrant rhetoric, and a community suffering from cuts, is a potentially deadly mix. Brexit has brought all this to a head.
Some local activists have expressed anger, particularly at the local MP’s comment that the killers “had come from the sewers”. In 2010, The Stow, where the murder happened, had the highest recorded level of anti-social behaviour in the south-East. Many residents are frustrated that a series of problems they have been protesting about for years are only just being noticed by both the press and their MP. Those responsible for making cuts and peddling anti-migrant ideas are now bemoaning a situation they helped create.