Traders across Halifax were today counting the cost of the English Defence League’s decision to hold another demo in town - today. Scores of pubs and other businesses will be shutting while the far-right group staged its protest.
Shops and pubs say they will lose business but want to avoid the disorder seen last time the EDL came to Halifax. Megan Forest, from The Three Pigeons, South Parade, said they planned to shut until 4pm. “We don’t want the trouble.”
Others closing include The Ring O’Bells, which will stay shut until the protesters have left. The Barum Top will be closed until 6pm. The Salvation will keep its doors shut till 5pm and the Plummet Line will also be closed till 5. Chris Lord, of Chris Lord Photography, said he was bound to lose business today because people will not be passing his office on Square Road. “We’re all trying hard to earn a living,” he said.
The EDL decision to come to Halifax will also mean Eureka, one of Halifax’s busiest tourist attractions, will shut for the day.
Police and Calderdale Council have designated the museum car park as the least disruptive spot for the protest. Police are also be expected to run a up a huge bill manning the demonstration. The force cannot say yet how much it will cost them but a demonstration in Bradford last summer cost the force £650,000.
MP for Halifax Linda Riordan said: “This has caused unnecessary disruption to people, businesses, and shopkeepers as well as affecting the local economy. It is outrageous that local businesses have been put in a position where they have to close for the day. I am confident the police will handle the situation effectively. But my message to the EDL is for them to go away and don’t come back to Halifax. I am sure the vast majority of people in this town, who are tolerant, respectful and decent, would agree with me.”
A joint statement from a group of Halifax organisations and individuals including Calderdale Council’s political leaders, Mrs Riordan, Halifax Minster, Calderdale College and Halifax Festival said: “The planned EDL protest is unwanted and damaging to everyone who lives, works and cares for Halifax and Calderdale. We support the right to peaceful protest but there is no clear reason why this group want to protest in Halifax,and the event will only bring tension, discord and anxiety. We have seen the impact of previous disruptive and criminal behaviour by supporters of this group in Halifax in recent months followed by the arrests of 16 people in April.
“Today is the first day of Halifax Festival. Eureka would be marking their 19th birthday in Halifax, but is now closed. It should be a day for local people to enjoy, a day for us to welcome visitors to our town, and a welcome boost for local businesses in difficult times. Instead, this protest – which will cost the police, council and partners many thousands of pounds – will disrupt our town and have a damaging impact on our businesses on the day itself and potentially afterwards.
“Fortunately, Halifax is a resilient place, with a clear determination to respond to the challenges of the economic recession. We are a place where people live side by side, with common values based upon mutual respect, tolerance and unity. The actions of the EDL in choosing to demonstrate in Halifax today show they care nothing for the wellbeing of anyone who lives, works in or cares about Halifax. They are not welcome in our town. It is time that they got this message.”
The protest clashes with the launch of Halifax Festival, but organisers say they are determined it will go ahead. A counter-EDL protest was being held today in King Cross Road, around noon.