Call for powers to cut far-right protests after Rotherham scandal

Members of the EDL marched through Rotherham. Photo: Chris Etchells
Members of the EDL marched through Rotherham. Photo: Chris Etchells
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A petition urging the Government to clamp down on public protests in the wake of far-right marches in Rotherham has been handed to Parliament.

The pressure on protests comes after a series of far-right demonstrations were held in Rotherham in 2014 since the exposure of the child sex abuse scandal in the town.

Businesses complained that their livelihoods were being hit by the protests, which included an EDL march through the town in May 2014 which cost £500,000 to police with 1,000 officers.

They told The Star the demos meant takings were down after roads were closed by police and regular shoppers avoided the town centre.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion handed a 300-signature petition calling for new powers on protests to Parliament.

It asks the Government to add a provision to the law to be able to curb marches based on economic impact as well as introduce limits on their frequency.

It adds: “The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consider the rules regarding marches and demonstrations, including looking specifically at the thresholds that are used to ban marches and demonstrations so that they include a provision to consider the economic impact of such marches as well as looking at the restrictions that are in place on the frequency, location, time or date of marches and demonstrations.”

Mrs Champion added: “Over the past 12 months there have been a number of marches through Rotherham, particularly by far-right groups, which have had a huge impact on the town.

“Small businesses have suffered lost income, with their shops being inaccessible during the demonstrations and many people have told the MP they now avoid the town centre completely for fear of reprisals.

“Some traders have told me that they are on the verge of going out of business as a direct result of the marches and many others are struggling.

“These are difficult times already for retailers and the last thing they need is another obstacle in their way which the Government is quite capable of moving.

“I fully support the public’s right to free speech but the constant targeting of Rotherham, in particular by far-right groups, has now gone too far.

“It is affecting the livelihood of a number of my constituents yet so far the Government has refused to do anything about it.

“For the sake of the community, I am again calling for these marches to be prevented or moved from our town centre.

“This time I hope the Government will listen and act.”