‘Refugees Welcome’ storm at Leeds café sparks ‘huge’ online reaction

18 September 2015.......   Geof Atack repaints 'Refugees Welcome' sign at The Real Junk Food Project in Armley, defiant in face of extremists who objected to their mural. after it was painted over by objectors.. Picture by Tony Johnson

18 September 2015....... Geof Atack repaints 'Refugees Welcome' sign at The Real Junk Food Project in Armley, defiant in face of extremists who objected to their mural. after it was painted over by objectors.. Picture by Tony Johnson

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The manager of a Leeds café whose staff were threatened with violence after painting ‘Refugees Welcome’ on an outside wall has told of the “huge” reaction the controversy has generated.

Bosses at The Real Junk Food Project, a ‘pay as you feel’ café in Armley set up to feed the vulnerable, painted the words ‘Refugees Welcome, Everybody Welcome’ on the wall to highlight their inclusive nature in the context of recent events.

The move sparked anger among some locals, with staff turning up to work last week to find the mural had been painted over in white. Police are also investigating claims that staff have been subjected to death threats and threats of violence.

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A fierce debate has been raging on the issue since the YEP reported the story on Friday, with hundreds of comments posted on our website and Facebook page.

Manager Adam Smith said: “It has been huge, in the first two hours we had 20,000 posts, comments and shares on the Real Junk Food Project site.

“We have also been posted all over the EDL’s social media and website. It has gone global, I have been invited to speak at a Refugees Welcome conference in Leeds because we have been subjected to a hate crime.”

He said he was now aware of who whitewashed the mural, adding: “He has made it quite clear who he is on Facebook and the police are aware of it.”

YEP readers continued to have their say on the controversy this weekend. One comment on our website by Darrenj12 said: “I feel sick and disgusted at some people in Armley who only love themselves and their narrow minded backward thinking. As a responsible adult, I could never lower myself to these actions, how can you?”

Yorkydevil wrote: “The cafe owner must have realised that it would cause a lot of tension, and basically it is defacing a building and spoiling the area.”

Another reader, Jenny Wald, wrote: “How can they expect to post something so controversial and not expect backlash? While I don’t agree with death threats, these people are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that absolutely everyone shares their opinion.”

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