Police intervene at Israeli shop demo

Shop-owners call in police as rowdy protests outside Israeli skincare store Ahava frighten away customers

By Robyn Rosen, July 22, 2010
Siege mentality: anti-Zionist protesters make their point in Monmouth Street

Siege mentality: anti-Zionist protesters make their point in Monmouth Street

Monmouth street in the popular London shopping district of Covent Garden is experiencing its own micro-downturn - and it's nothing to do with the credit crunch.

Shop-owners have had to call in the police as demonstrations and counter-demonstrations outside the London branch of Israeli skincare shop Ahava - famous for its Dead Sea products - have driven away customers.

One shopkeeper said that protesters were "running down the road chasing people with flyers", and a shop opposite Ahava, Miss Lala's Boudoir, has closed down because of the disruption caused by the protests.

Colin George, manager of clothes shop The Loft, next door to Ahava, said: "I'm worried about my business. There are protesters every fortnight with around 50 people each time. The police put barriers on the highway, but usually they spread out across the street handing out leaflets. It doesn't look good for the street.

"People avoid them because they shout slogans and hand out leaflets. People don't like it. They don't know which shop they are protesting outside. The figures have dropped on Saturdays by about 20 per cent. Shoppers don't turn up until three o'clock when the protesters leave."

The manager of the nearby Orla Kiely store said: "It can be intimidating for families to walk past those protesters. They run down the road chasing people with flyers."

Shop owners called a meeting with local police after concerns were raised about the effect the fortnightly protests were having on other stores.

Police have now said there can be no more than 12 protesters at a time in both pro-Palestinian and counter demos, and have banned them from using megaphones. They have also cordoned off a section of the road to stop protesters obstructing other stores.

Rita Trindad, an assistant in the Ahava shop, said: "It's annoying having people outside the store every other week, but people still want to shop here to show them they don't agree with the protests."

A police spokeswoman said: "The meeting was held because the businesses neighbouring Ahava had made complaints about the impact on their businesses by the protests.

"One representative from both sides of the protest was also invited - they were supposed to pass on the agreement to other members but last
week there were 30 pro-Palestinian activists.

"At the next protest, if the numbers are over the suggested amount again the police will need to speak to them again."

Last updated: 5:14pm, October 7 2010