THANKFUL guest house and restaurant owners say it was “business as usual” in South Shields on Saturday – despite a right-wing protest march.
Town MP Emma Lewell-Buck has also expressed her pleasure that the community came together to show that the EDL is “not welcome in South Shields”.
Janet Bates, who has run the Forest Guest House in Ocean Road for the last three years, said a police operation to ensure the march went off without major incident had been “absolutely fabulous”.
She said: “In the days leading up to the march the police came around and were asking if we had any concerns, and I couldn’t fault the operation itself on Saturday.
“They have such a difficult job to do, particularly the community officers, and often they don’t get the credit they deserve.
“They dealt so well with the crowds and all the people who turned up on the day. It was business as usual in town and people were able to go about their normal business.
“We had feared running scuffles in the aftermath of the march but it was relatively trouble-free.
“I was speaking to Mr Choudry from the Monsoon restaurant in Ocean Road and we both want to state our public thanks and gratitude to the tremendous efforts of the police.”
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Mrs Lewell-Buck paid an eve-of-march visit to Ocean Road with Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird to calm the community ahead of Saturday’s rally.
She said: “I commend the work of our police force in keeping Saturday’s march as peaceful as possible.
“They handled a difficult situation with great composure, and I was pleased to see that only a few arrests for minor offences needed to be made.
“I was also pleased with the unity shown by residents and campaigners in the run-up to the march who gave a clear message that our community will not be intimidated by racism, and that the EDL’s intolerance is not welcome in South Shields.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “Events such as these can cause concern for local people and I am pleased that police worked successfully with local communities and partners in South Shields to ensure that disruption was kept to a minimum.
“On Friday night I visited South Shields with the town’s MP, Emma Lewell-Buck, to talk to local people ahead of the event, and I was impressed by the relationships that the police had built up with the local community.
“It was clear to me that local officers had kept people informed about the event and the work that police and partners were doing on their behalf.
“On the day, police were quick to deal with any incidents.”
About 350 members of the right-wing groups the English Defence League (EDL) and the North East Infidels NEI took part in the march from Fowler Street.
They were met by about 100 counter-protesters from South Tyneside Unites Against Fascism at Pier Parade.