Updated: Saturday, 14th December 2019 @ 6:16pm

Labour MP denies Heywood race problem despite racially linked protests following Rochdale sex ring convictions

Labour MP denies Heywood race problem despite racially linked protests following Rochdale sex ring convictions

By Jack Drummond

Racism is not a problem in Heywood following the sentencing of a child sex gang, according to the Labour MP Jim Dobbin.

The MP for Heywood and Middleton believes the scenes witnessed on the evening of February 23 this year, when around 200 youths took to the town's Bridge Street and targeted Asian businesses, were more out of excitement and curiosity than racism.

Mr Dobbin made the comments on the day of the local election, a week before the conviction of nine men at Liverpool Crown Court for raping and sexually assaulting girls in a child sex ring across Heywood, Rochdale and Oldham.

"I think that once this is all over that we really need to start a-fresh and build good community relations once more," said Mr Dobbin.

"Some of the young people probably turned up for the excitement. Y'know, you've got 200 kids on the streets in the town and that was the situation.

"It was a bit of nosiness to a certain extent," he added. "I don't think there's a huge problem with racism for most people."
 
However Mr Dobbin believed that much of the incident was open to exaggeration, with exact numbers of those involved varying between different reports.

"To a certain extent, some of the shopkeepers were supporting each other and there were shopkeepers who were non-Asian who were supporting the Asian shopkeepers as well."

However, the violence was followed a week later by a smaller National Front (NF) and English Defence League (EDL) protest on Saturday March 3 in the town's memorial gardens.

"It was a pure racist demonstration and that's the way the NF and the EDL work and do things. That’s why they're there," said Mr Dobbin.

He added that many of the children's parents needed to be vigilant in the coming weeks as the fallout from the trial continues.

"I'd say to they're parents just be careful, just watch what your children are getting involved in, keep an eye on them and make sure they understand and obey the law because I think that is absolutely crucial."

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