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Vigil held for Polish man killed in Harlow in show of solidarity

Published 01/09/2016

People attend a vigil in Harlow to pay tribute to Arkadiusz Jozwik
People attend a vigil in Harlow to pay tribute to Arkadiusz Jozwik
Arkadiusz Jozwik, who died on Monday after being attacked in Harlow, Essex (Essex Police)

A community turned out in force at a candlelit vigil for a Polish man killed in a possible hate crime.

Arkadiusz Jozwik, known as Arek, was attacked in Harlow, Essex, on Saturday night and died on Monday from head injuries.

The 40-year-old and another Polish man were set upon outside a row of takeaway shops in what Essex Police believe was an unprovoked attack at around 11.35pm.

Campaign group Stand Up To Racism organised a candlelit vigil at the scene of the attack to show solidarity with the Polish community in the town.

More than 200 people attended the event on Wednesday evening, including faith leaders, campaigners and people from the Polish community.

They listened to speakers from across the community who told of the importance of standing together.

Sylwia Karwacka, 31, of Harlow, held a candle and stood with friends carrying a Polish flag.

"Arek was lying there," she said, standing in The Stow shopping precinct. "He was my friend.

"We do nothing wrong and I don't understand why young people would attack Polish people.

"We live the same as everyone. We work, we pay tax.

"It's hard at the moment. I think 'why him? Why Polish people? Why?'."

She added that the death of Mr Jozwik had hit some sections of the Polish community hard.

"We're scared to go somewhere, we're scared to go out in case someone waits somewhere for you," she said. "We don't want to be scared. We want to live the same as everyone else. It's hard."

Lauren O'Donnell, 25, of Harlow, is a supporter of the Stand Up To Racism group.

"I wanted to show solidarity with the Polish and immigrant community in Harlow as they have suffered some harassment since Brexit," she said. "It's a very vocal minority and the majority of us wanted to say 'we appreciate you being here', and welcome people into the community."

Adam Cochrane, joint chairman of Stand Up To Racism's Harlow branch, said the turnout was "amazing".

He added: "The crowd couldn't be more diverse. I think Harlow showed its real face today."

A further community event is planned on Saturday in tribute to Mr Jozwik.

In a statement, Mr Jozwik's family said they were "extremely devastated" by their loss.

Polish ambassador Arkady Rzegocki visited the town earlier on Wednesday to lay floral tributes and to visit the family.

Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore, of Essex Police, said while six teenagers "who were perhaps involved in that melee" had been arrested, officers believed there may have been 12 to 13 people there.

He stressed there was no evidence to suggest the incident was a hate crime, but it could not be ruled out.

After the Brexit vote there was a spike in reported hate crimes, and incidents peaked on the day after the referendum.

A 48-hour dispersal order began at 7pm on Wednesday in a bid to keep potential trouble-makers away from the area.

Five 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old who were arrested on suspicion of murder have been released on police bail until October 7.

A 43-year-old man, also from Harlow, was injured in the attack, and discharged from hospital after being treated for suspected hand fractures and bruising to his stomach.

Poland's deputy prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed his sorrow at the death as he visited the UK.

"This was a very sad day, and sad event. I know one line of the investigation by the police was that it might have been a hate crime, it remains to be seen what were the reasons. I hope it will never happen again, but yes, this will pose a question mark in many families, Polish families, in Great Britain," he told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

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