The English Defence League protest in Rotherham on Saturday ‘damaged the local economy’, traders said today - after they were forced to shut up shop when hundreds of demonstrators descended on the town.
Streets were brought to a standstill as around 500 EDL protesters marched through the town centre, with another 200-strong group from Unite Against Fascism holding a counter-protest at the same time.
Up to 1,000 police from around the country outnumbered both groups, but no arrests were made at the event.
Chf Supt Jason Harwin, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “Working with partners and with the co-operation of the public and local businesses in Rotherham, the events passed with minimal disruption and no disorder.
“There were no arrests made at the event and the two groups complied fully with police, allowing the protests to be carried out peacefully with minimal disruption for local residents and shoppers.”
“I would like to thank all officers and partners involved in the operation for their professionalism leading up to the event and throughout Saturday.”
The EDL marched from 1pm, gathering in All Saints Square at around 2pm.
They were escorted out of the town centre just before 3pm.
United Against Facism supporters assembled at the Town Hall at around 11am, and entered All Saints Square shortly after the EDL left.
Charlotte Scothern, aged 22, who is owner of the Patchwork Pig gift shop, said Rotherham had been turned into a ‘ghost town’ by the march and shoppers stayed away.
“It has definitely affected us,” she said.
“The police are here to protect you but it makes you wary that they are expecting something to happen when you see that and the riot gear.”
She said it was disappointing the EDL had chosen to visit Rotherham for the third time in 18 months.
“We have had a really good few weeks, with positivity about new shops opening and Mary Portas coming to town. “But people will remember Rotherham for this and not all the amazing hard work people put in every day of the year.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to come to the town centre on its busiest day.
“When you see the strong police presence, it makes people nervous about coming into town.”
Kara Chapman, 39, owner of Whistlestop Sweet Shop, said: “Our regular customers haven’t come into town. “The demonstration put off the bulk of our regular customers.
“I understand people want to demonstrate but if they understood the effect it has on the local economy, maybe they will give us a miss next time.”
David Furborough, aged 40, opened his new Reborn Babies shop for the first time on Saturday.
He said he was unaware of the planned protest until Friday.
Mr Furborough said he had been busy in the morning but closed for 90 minutes as the march passed.
George Ollivant, aged 82, from Broom Valley, said: “Shops have been losing money left, right and centre.”