Mob attacks Asian restaurant linked to sex grooming court case

 

"We are innocent people loyal to the community," proclaimed the posters adorning the windows of the Tasty Bites takeaway yesterday. If we are guilty, why the police have not arrested us? Why we are still working? Why our shop is still open?"

Inside, Mushtaq Ahmed was indignant with anger and shock. He invested his life savings to help his son-in-law buy the fast-food outlet three years ago and has been steadily building the business.

But on Monday, takeaways in the Heywood area of Rochdale were mentioned in media coverage of a child sex gang trial involving 11 Asian men at Liverpool Crown Court. Racial tensions have been simmering ever since and on Thursday night they erupted when a demonstration, apparently organised on social media, in protest at the allegations, degenerated into violence.

Up to 150 people – many of them children – took to the streets, some of them brandishing racist placards. During the evening the mob began pelting police with bricks and targeting takeaways on the main shopping parade before being dispersed by riot vans.

Taxi drivers were threatened and an Asian pizza delivery man had his vehicle attacked. A police officer suffered bruising and two people, including a 14-year-old boy, were arrested.

Although Mr Ahmed and his family have nothing to do with the trial or the alleged events which are said to have taken place prior to his purchase of the business, his livelihood has collapsed since Monday. "I have lost all my customers – not a word of a lie. We are suffering. Last night they were doing all sorts of stuff – shouting 'get the rapist out'. 'Paedophile'. Quite abusive words.

"The police were there but they were quite limited and they asked us to close the business. It will take me five to 10 years to build it back up again. We have had so many phone calls giving abuse – all kinds of threats; threatening to burn the shop down."

Four people are employed at Tasty Bites and Mr Ahmed has mortgaged his family home in order to set his son-in-law Ammir Rafiq up in business. Each works seven days a week until at least 1am.

But not last night. Like the other Asian businesses in this predominantly white community, they were rolling down the shutters early as police called for calm and promised a "robust" approach to any further trouble.

Amid the rumours swirling around the town are fears that elements of the far-right might be preparing to exploit the tensions. There have already been calls to ban an English Defence League march due to take place in the nearby town of Hyde following an alleged attack on a white teenager by Asian youths earlier this month.

But no one knows what will happen in Heywood, which has hitherto escaped the kind of rioting which so badly scarred near-neighbours Oldham, Burnley and Bradford in recent years.

The sense of foreboding was palpable. At Eagle Cars 2000, where the drivers are predominantly Asian, most went home early as trouble flared. "One driver told me they saw baseball bats and they were getting out of town. They are frightened as is everybody. The base staff were frightened, I was frightened," said manager Katie Turner.

Zeeshan Khokhar, owner of take-away Bits * Pizza, described how "white friends" came to his shop to protect him. He said: "It started about 4pm, kids banging on windows. They were shouting, 'Why are you still open you dirty bastards?'."

Darren Taylor, manager at Domino's Pizza, said one of his drivers was surrounded. "They were banging and kicking on the car and calling him a paedo and a Paki," he said.

The disturbances were condemned by community leaders. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Manchester-based Ramadhan Foundation, said: "Mob rule or vigilantism is not the way we conduct ourselves in this country." Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council, said: "Let's keep the cohesion together. This is about protecting families and children."

Police, meanwhile, urged parents to be aware of where young people were over the coming days. Superintendent Chris Hankinson, from Greater Manchester Police, said the trouble was caused by less than 10 individuals seeking to take advantage of the current tensions. "Those that seek to use what's going on at the moment in Liverpool to further their racist agenda will be dealt with robustly," he said.

All 11 men in the Liverpool trial deny the variety of charges against them.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it