Anti-Israeli M&S protest turns ugly in Manchester

Marks & Spencer is considering using anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) to ban intimidating anti-Israeli demonstrators from picketing its Manchester flagship.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators have targeted the Market Street outlet for three and a half years, claiming the retail giant - founded by a Jewish refugee - supports Israel. M&S opened its original store in Manchester in 1893.

Last Saturday, protestors from groups including Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! clashed with rival pro-Israeli demonstrators, forcing police to lock the front entrance of the store to protect customers.

Mounted police kept the two sides apart, while one end of Market Street was closed to traffic for safety reasons.

An M&S spokeswoman said the retailer was working with the police and was taking its advice. 'The disturbances were quite alarming,' she said. 'They (demonstrators) have a right to voice their opinions, but our priorities are the safety of our customers and staff.'

Greater Manchester Police confirmed it was using information supplied by M&S and looking into applying for an ASBO against protestors.

Only the police, local authorities and housing associations can apply to the courts for an ASBO. Individuals or organisations can submit evidence to help the process.

According to local press reports, the crowd on Saturday grew to more than 80 and several people were warned about their behaviour. Shoppers had to walk in the road and squeeze past the angry mob.

A staff member at nearby USC said the scenes had been 'scary'. 'The whole street was full of police,' she said.