Council chiefs say demonstrations ‘not welcome’ in Rotherham

The Britain First Party stage a march through the streets of Rotherham. . The party and supporters gather in Trinity Square
The Britain First Party stage a march through the streets of Rotherham. . The party and supporters gather in Trinity Square
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Council chiefs in Rotherham have hit out at protest groups destroying trade.

Traders lost business on Saturday when far right group Britain First marched through the town calling for arrests and prosecutions following the publication of the Jay Report, which revealed that 1,400 children had been abused by largely Pakistani men over a 16 year period.

It is the second time Britain First has marched through the town over recent weeks and the English Defence League staged a national rally there last month.

Traders have launched a petition calling for the Home Office to take into account the economic and social impact of demonstrations before giving groups the automatic right to protest.

Karl Battersby, Rotherham Council’s Strategic Director for Environment and Development Services, said the repeat demonstrations were ‘not welcome’.

“On the whole, the people who attend these marches are not local to the area and have no stake or interest in the town. Instead they force ordinary members of the public to change their plans, leaving traders and businesses out of pocket.

“We acknowledge that any group has the right to peaceful assembly or protest and that only the Home Secretary has the powers to ban marches or processions. But there is also a limit to how a town of this size can cope with so many repeated marches.

“When a march is organised the authority works with other partners and local businesses to minimise the impact of the gathering and to ensure public safety.

“We do all we can to keep the public and businesses informed about such events and it is up to traders to decide whether or not to remain open. Some do and some don’t but obviously repetitive regular marches and demonstrations are bound to take their toll.

“Our town centre traders are totally fed-up. They have done so much to increase footfall in recent years resulting in Rotherham becoming an attractive place to visit with many individual and unique shops.

“The traders are now determined to have their voices heard and are working together to ensure that the ‘Open For Business’ sign is still hanging above Rotherham, despite the unwanted marches. The authority will do all it can to help them.”

A 23-year-old man arrested at the Britain First march has been charged with a public order offence and possession of cannabis. He is due at Rotherham Magistrates’ Court on October 20.

A 55-year-old man arrested for breaching a dispersal order was issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice.