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Protesters Protest Protesters

H&M, Schuh and Boodles employees protest disruption to their stores

Written by . Published on August 7th 2014.

Protesters Protest Protesters

IN recent weeks a number of shops along Market Street and King’s Street have been subjected to a so-called March of Shame and now shop workers say they’ve had enough.

"You’re barricaded in by loads of screaming protesters. It’s quite uncomfortable.”

A breakaway group of Gaza protesters have been moving down into the main shopping areas on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings for the past three weeks.

Banging on shop windows and yelling abuse, these protesters have left shop workers feeling intimidated and uncomfortable. Customers have also been affected with many being forced to leave the locked down buildings via fire exits.

2014-08-07 09.43.46Cllr Kevin Peel (far left) and Cllr Pat Karney (middle) with protesting shop workers

Initial protests have been centred on cosmetic store Kedem on King Street which is known to sell products sourced from Israel. However, protesters now have their eyes set on other stores.

It is believed that Swedish company H&M has been targeted as it has a store in Tel Aviv, Israel's second largest city. In response Cllr Pat Karney stated that “it is complete utter fantasy, delusional politics and extremist” to abuse shop workers who do not have any personal connection to the conflict or area and are just doing a job.

Tesco, Barclays, Boodles and Schuh are thought to be among a number of affected stores.

One Market Street shop worker, whose employer wished them to remain anonymous, had this to say about their experience: “I understand why people need to protest about Palestine, but when you’re outside our shop stopping us doing our jobs... it's not right. The reason why they’re protesting us is that we have a franchise in Israel. We don't control that. We just work in Manchester, we’re not supporting anyone.”

Concern was also expressed for the welfare of customers. “It’s not so bad for us because we have advance warning and know it’s going to happen and can prepare," said another shopworker. "But for a customer you’re just in a shop and then suddenly the doors are locked and you’re barricaded in by loads of screaming protesters. It’s quite uncomfortable.”

Today’s protest was not a request to stop all demonstrations in relations to the Gaza conflict, but rather a plea from shop workers to allow them to live their everyday lives. They have been supported in this plea by Manchester City Council.

2014-08-07 09.48.30Cllr Pat Karney addresses shop workers

Cllr Pat Karney has promised shop workers that he will bring Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, to meet them in person in order to address their concerns. He further reiterated that whilst he sympathised with the majority of law-abiding pro-Palestine demonstrators, it is the council’s policy that the protests should be limited to Piccadilly Gardens and that the police would be asked to contain it accordingly.

Instead, Karney encouraged demonstrators to “write to H&M, write to M&S, write to them and seek meetings with them, but stop attacking young shop workers in Manchester.”

Karney also made the link to the city centre riots three years ago:

“A lot of these shop workers were here when the riots were going on. We had rioters with baseball bats and balaclavas who could have hurt them. I say that none of these people will hurt them but they're not to know that. They're scared.”

Greater Manchester Police believe that up to 1000 people could attend Gaza protests over the course of the weekend in Piccadilly Gardens, and ask that people respect the wishes of shop keepers and the council and demonstrate peacefully.

You can follow @AnnaECarruthers on twitter.

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EDITORIALAugust 8th 2014.

I'm afraid that, although many of you have made reasoned and valid points, in line with our 'Rant Policy' we've had to disable comments on this article as some were getting daft. Ed.

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