Tesco UK chief executive Richard Brasher has hit out against claims that the violent protests at its store in Bristol happened because the locals did not support its opening.

Writing in The Times, Brasher said “a few self-appointed spokesman and some no doubt well-intentioned commentators have sought to explain the violence and, on occasion, to legitimise it by linking it to the opening of our store”.

He said: “It is impossible to see how a small shop, providing jobs and affordable food in an economically challenged area is such an injustice.

“What we saw on Thursday was violence in search of an agenda. Other local businesses were victims too. This was violence against the local community, not for it.”

Last Thursday evening, a Tesco Express store in Stokes Croft in Bristol had its windows smashed during protests. The violence happened after police raided a property occupied by squatters opposite the shop.

The police said the squat was raided because they feared the Express store – which had been open for just a week – was to be petrol bombed. Protesters had set up camp outside the shop since its opening on April 15.

Brasher pointed out that Tesco is often the only business willing to invest in deprived areas such as Beckton in east London, Cheetham Hill in Manchester, or Toxteth in Liverpool.

He said: “There is a very simple test of whether local people want one of our shops: they will either come to it or not. We are happy to take that test. The handful who yearn for intimidation clearly are not.

“The claim that the Stokes Croft community does not support our store isn’t backed by the facts. Thousands voted with their feet during a successful first week, and local businesses tell us they are glad that it has opened.

“This was not the ‘city that went to war with Tesco’. It was a tiny handful turning on their neighbours.”