Hundreds of English Defence League and United Against Fascism demonstrators traded insults as they turned a usually busy shopping centre in a ‘ghost town’, says one shopkeeper.
Police praised the public and businesses for their co-operation this weekend, as around 700 demonstrators took part, ‘without any major disruption, behaviour or criminality’.
But one woman shopkeeper in Rotherham town centre, where the demonstration took ploace, said it had a signigicant impact on trade.
Many shoppers kept out of the town because they were nervous of the required police presence on Saturday.
Around 1,000 police officers were on duty at a cost of what is believed to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video report and interview with the shopkeeper.
The shopkeeper said: “Saturday is one of our busiest trading days but it felt like a ghost town.
“A number of shops shut early or didn’t open at all. When you see the strong police presence, which is required, it makes people feel nervous about coming into town.
“When we’ve spent so much time, especially over the past few months, publicising that Rotherham is the place to be, it just feels like this has overshadowed it.
“I don’t want this to be what they remember Rotherham for. I want it to go back to the positive buzz we had about the town before this happened.
“We only shut before they went past, but it wouldn’t have been possible to remain open anyway because of the sheer volume of people walking past.
“Up until that point it felt very empty in town. It’s a shame, because on any other Saturday it would been much more busy. All the shops would have remained open all day.”
Rotherham Chief Supt Jason Harwin thanked the public and business owners for their co-operation, saying the protests passed peacefully.
Police were drafted in to ensure the safety of local residents and those taking part in the protests.
Police were also out in numbers around Rotherham on Saturday evening to provide reassurance and a response to any potential problems.
Approximately 500 people from the EDL marched through the town from 1pm, gathering in All Saints Square at around 2pm.
They were escorted from the Square just before 3pm and dispersed from the town centre.
From the opposing group UAF, around 200 people gathered at the Town Hall at around 11am, and entered All Saints Square shortly after the EDL left the location.
Chief Supt Harwin said: “Working with partners and with the co-operation of the public and local businesses in Rotherham, the events today have passed with minimal disruption and no disorder.
“There were no arrests made 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 today.”