Businesses in Nuneaton have threatened to “shut up shop” if another rally by the English Defence League is allowed to go ahead in the town on a Saturday afternoon.
Calls have already been made by the borough council and the MP for action to be taken by the Home Secretary to prevent a repeat of last weekend’s arrival of 1,500 EDL supporters. A massive police operation contained and controlled the demonstration away from the main shopping area – but store owners and stall holders were still left to count the cost, with takings badly hit.
“In 42 years, this was the worst Saturday afternoon I have ever known,” said Stuart Tooby, who sells confectionery and is a spokesman for Nuneaton market traders. “It is the first time I have failed to take enough money to meet my day’s costs. I had to pay staff out of my own pocket. After lunchtime, the town was absolutely deserted. Shoppers stayed away because they were frightened of what might happen.
“The manager of one main store told me their takings were 50 per cent down. Others closed early and everyone started to pack up their stalls around 3pm. This is people’s livelihoods we are talking about – and we are not prepared to be put into this situation again.”
Mr Tooby said that traders will refuse to turn out if the EDL stages another Saturday demo in Nuneaton.
“Why should we be forced to lose money? We have made our feelings known to the council – and have suggested that in such circumstances, perhaps we could have the street market on a Friday or Sunday instead.”
Council leader Dennis Harvey said: “Nuneaton has now been targeted four times by the EDL and it is a mystery why they should pick on our town to cause disruption. It did have a disastrous effect on businesses last Saturday afternoon, as well as stretching the police resources. I do have to congratulate the police for the way they organised their operation and also thank everyone, traders and shoppers, who did try to go about their business as normal.”
A letter has gone from the borough council to Theresa May asking her to block any future EDL requests to meet in Nuneaton, while local MP Marcus Jones has also pressed the Home Secretary to take action. He said: “It is unfair that our town has been targeted in this way, by people from outside the area coming in to cause disruption. It also puts businesses and people’s jobs at risk.”