Red Flare

Leading Patriotic Alternative Organiser Jailed for Two Years

Patriotic Alternative (PA)’s Yorkshire regional organiser Samuel Melia, has been jailed for two years today in a major blow to the fascist group. Melia is the husband of PA’s deputy leader Laura Towler (real name Laura Melia) and the couple, who are expecting their second child, have been a driving force behind the growth of PA.

The 34-year-old from West Yorkshire was sentenced today having been found guilty of intent to stir up racial hatred in January following a trial at Leeds Crown Court. Melia’s position as the organiser of one of PA’s flagship regions and his marriage to one of the group’s two leaders, has made him an influential figure within the group both nationally and locally.

Melia’s conviction is the latest in a string of convictions for serious offences to hit PA organisers and key activists over the past year. In May last year, podcast host James Allchurch, who organised PA’s conferences, was jailed for two and a half years for ten offences of stirring up racial hatred. PA’s national fitness officer Kristofer Kearney was jailed for four years and eight months for terrorism offences in June. Two months later Ashley Podsiad-Sharp, who was close to PA, was given an eight years sentence for a terrorism offence. PA North West activist James Costello was jailed for five years for 19 offences of stirring up racial hatred in November.

During the trial, the court heard that Melia founded the Hundred Handers anonymous stickering network which produced and distributed sticker designs featuring racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic slogans. Melia encouraged his followers to download, print and then put up these stickers in an attempt to spread his neo-Nazi worldview. Melia told supporters to conceal their identities by using Virtual Private Networks and secure email providers.

Melia initially hid his involvement with PA, appearing off camera in Laura’s videos, usually with only a hand visible. Laura Melia had previously complained on a private Instagram account that she was unable to share her wedding photos with her online audience. In 2020 we revealed Sam Melia’s marriage to Laura and involvement in PA. Melia went on to become an important public face for the group.

A search of the Melia’s former home on Town Street in Pudsey in April 2021 by counter-terrorism police discovered a poster of Adolf Hitler, a book by Oswald Mosley - leader of the British Union of Fascists - and a Nazi emblem. Since being found guilty by a jury on 24 January, Melia had been acting under advice to avoid making public statements regarding the trial. Following this verdict, PA issued a statement where a range of claims were made in defence of Melia. Penned by Eastern regional organiser Steve Blake, these included a dismissal of the Hitler poster as a “funny picture placed in an amusing position”.

PA have been careful to mitigate the damage this case might inflict on the confidence of their activists and the wider ethno-nationalist movement. In their statement they clarified that the rhetoric used by Melia on the stickers had not in itself been deemed illegal by the prosecution, only the intentions of his actions as a whole. As similar rhetoric is commonly employed by PA, this avoids the implication that such statements are illegal.

PA are expected to fundraise heavily off the back of the sentence. After their home was raided by counter-terrorism police in 2021, the Melias raised over £1,500 in superchat donations during a livestream. Following Melia’s conviction earlier this year, PA leader Mark Collett launched a crowdfunder to support the couple on GiveSendGo, a Christian fundraising platform notorious for allowing far-right users to raise funds. At the time of writing, the fascist couple have raised over £28,000 in just over a month.

Melia’s imprisonment is one of the most significant blows dealt to PA to date, as his wife and PA’s deputy leader, who is currently pregnant, is left to raise two children alone. We expect Laura will struggle to match the level of online publishing she reached before the trial. It remains to be seen how this sentence will impact the fascist group’s activism in general.

Collett's crowdfunder for the Melia's on GiveSendGo

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Patriotic Alternative Yorkshire

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