Traders in Blackpool today voiced their concerns over plans for a St George’s Day march which has previously sparked violent scenes.
An event organised by nationalist campaign group March for England last year saw shops close amid clashes with groups opposed to the event in Brighton.
I would hope it doesn’t disrupt businesses in Blackpool and doesn’t cause any damage
There were 27 arrests and business chiefs estimated they lost thousands of pounds in trade by closing down.
And previous years have also seen ugly clashes between those taking part in the march and rival groups.
March for England says the people of Blackpool have nothing to fear from the event, which is due to be held on Saturday.
But traders today voiced concerns over the impact the march could have after reports of previous problems.
Police in Blackpool have confirmed they are preparing for the event.
It comes as a group opposed to the event, describing itself as “anti-facist” said it was “organising” to show marchers they were not welcome”
Susanne Johnson, chairman of the Blackpool and Wyre branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, warned anyone coming to the resort to “behave yourselves.”
She said: “I would hope it doesn’t disrupt businesses in Blackpool and doesn’t cause any damage.
“I am very much in favour of free speech but I hate people being intimidated.
“You don’t want to attract marches like that. The ones you see on television are never a good look for an area.”
March for England describes itself on its website as a collection of people “regardless of colour, culture, religion or non-religion” who organise marches each year to show their national pride.
They say they are “not a political party” are “free from hardline extremists of all religions or fascist groups that bring non-cohesion”.
They also say they are “not racist” and are “nothing to do” with the English Defence League. It has previously organised anti-European Union marches and events including “Remembering 7/7”.
Last year, when around 150 members of the group and 1,000 members of an opposing group, who described themselves as “anti-facists”, took over Brighton seafront, Sussex Police said it was “satisfied” with how the march went, despite 27 arrests being made ranging from assault causing actual bodily harm to possession of an offensive weapon.
There were also reports of chairs and pint glasses being hurled by people on both sides during a street brawl outside a bar.
And the year before, a “minority” of the counter-demonstrators were blamed for ugly scenes where police officers and horse were attacked.
Peter Sedgwick, who owns North Pier, said he was concerned by those previous reports of trouble.
He said: “We’re all for fetching people into Blackpool but if it’s caused trouble in Brighton we don’t really need that kind of thing here.
“We could do without it really – we are trying to clean Blackpool up at the moment and one thing we don’t want is trouble.”
Police in Blackpool today said they were in contact with the organisers of the march.
Chief Insp Keith Ogle said: “We will have an appropriate policing presence. We don’t know much about it as yet but we are in discussions with the organisers and if it’s a march around St George’s Day, we will want people to come, be peaceful and enjoy it.”
He said he was not aware of the number of people expected to attend or if counter a demonstration will take place.
He said the role of police will be to “facilitate” the march, adding that the scale of the police response will be decided during the week.
The exact timing and location of this year’s march, which takes place on the weekend closest to St George’s Day, has yet to be announced, although it is expected to be on the seafront.
A group called Oppose the March for England has been created for the occasion and around 100 people have pledged the support to its planned counter demonstration on Facebook.
A March for England poster advertising the march, which has close to 250 likes on Facebook, said: “Bring your flags. Fill the Blackpool skyline with a sea of red and white.
“We shall not be silenced by those on the left wing. These Anglophobes will do all they can to spoil our day, as they usually do. We will show them there is nothing wrong with being English. If the people of Blackpool need to fear anyone or anything, it is the fascist morons of the left wing.”
A spokesman for Oppose the March for England said: “Having been chased out of Brighton, the organisers think they’ll have an easier time up north.
“Anti-fascists from Blackpool and beyond are organising to show them they’re not welcome here either.”
The Gazette attempted to contact March for England, but no one was available.