Some 1,400 balloons were released in Rotherham to symbolise the number of children abused by Pakistani men in the town over 16 years.
They were released on the day far right group Britain First marched through the town calling for more arrests and prosecutions over the abuse, which authorities turned a blind eye to because of sensitivities over the ethnicity of offenders.
To counteract the demonstration, Rotherham artist and community worker Victoria Hilton organised for the town centre streets to be lined with positive messages.
She said: “I feel that the far right groups coming to our town are trying to damage our diverse communities and businesses.
“I wonder how many of them actually care about what has happened here. They have been allowed to come into our town and breed hatred and I have had enough, along with many others in Rotherham.
“These people are not from Rotherham and are using what has sadly happened here as a scapegoat to bring these marches to our town.
“I haven’t met one person from Rotherham who thinks these marches are a good idea.
“I wanted to do something to remind them why they were marching, something symbolic that would have a greater impact on our town than the far right groups’ negative visits that don’t change or help anything. In fact it’s a huge waste of our resources which could be used in better ways.
“Britain First seemed to be angry towards our balloons and the fact that we are standing together to say enough is enough’.
Traders have launched a petition calling for future demonstrations to be banned on economic grounds.