Locals abused and intimidated after hundreds descend on town for Christian festival

·3 min read
An aerial view of the Rutland Showground. (SWNS)
An aerial view of the Rutland Showground. (SWNS)

A Tory MP has rounded on the “unacceptable intimidation” of her constituents from people attending a Christian festival.

Alicia Kearns demanded “more protection” from police officers after a weekend of reported anti-social behaviour in Oakham, Rutland.

It comes after about 1,500 travellers visited Rutland Showground in the market town for a Pentecostal Christian event called Light and Life.

The event was legally authorised. A small minority of people were blamed for the disruption, with locals reporting abuse, drag racing and shop looting which led some businesses to close.

Leicestershire Police said on Monday afternoon that it was "investigating a number of offences including attempted robbery and antisocial behaviour".

It said in a statement that two arrests have been made. It wasn't clear whether they happened on Monday, or since Saturday.

Some people said they spent the entire weekend locked down in their own homes as they were too scared to leave.

The event at Rutland Showground was legally authorised. (SWNS)
The event at Rutland Showground was legally authorised. (SWNS)

On Monday morning, a McDonald’s branch remained closed, with officers stood at the entrance following reports that youths intimidated staff and diners.

One group of teenagers was seen jumping on car bonnets in the car parks of a nearby garage and Aldi supermarket, which had stayed open.

Businessman Carl Ford, 55, said most smaller firms were forced to close their doors and neighbours were avoiding the town due to "fears for their safety".

He said: "The last 24 hours have been absolute carnage. They have been running amok and showing no respect for our town.

"On top of antisocial behaviour I can't imagine how many COVID breaches there have been.

"They are packing into tents like sardines and with the latest [Delta variant] strain it is very worrying.

"They were all racing up the Oakham bypass. It was like a race track up there last night. I've seen some police but not enough, they look out of control to me.

Disturbances in Oakham were blamed on a small minority of people. (SWNS)
Disturbances in Oakham were blamed on a small minority of people. (SWNS)

"People are not coming into town over fears for their own safety. The police have mostly let it all happen, they are outnumbered."

Another person, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's been a nightmare. Our town has been over-run and they are leaving a lot of mess in the process.

"I can't fathom how this event has been allowed to go ahead. It just beggars belief the authorities haven't closed this down already.

"I'm sure most of them are behaving but a minority have been causing mayhem and something needs to be done about it.

Watch: What you need to know about COVID-19 variants

"I'm scared to leave my own home and nobody should ever be made to feel like that."

Kearns, the Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, called on the police to clamp down on any further issues following the "unacceptable disturbances and further intimidation of our community".

In a series of tweets, she added: "As I’ve been clear with police, we need pre-emptive, and strong, policing at all times, especially evenings."

In a statement, the Rutland Agricultural Society, which owns the showground, said it was aware the event was "causing disturbance to our neighbours".

Organisers apologise for disturbance

It said: "We wholeheartedly apologise for this.

"We agreed to the booking after assessing the organisers' risk assessment and with the belief that this was an event primarily about Christian worship.

"However there is a minority of people who are disrupting the event and causing significant problems in and around the showground.

"Our priority is to help maintain public order and minimise disruption and allow the event to refocus on its Christian worship as quickly and quietly as possible."

Supt Jonny Starbuck, from Leicestershire Police, said there had been an "enhanced visible presence" of officers on Monday.

"Where offences are committed, we will deal with them effectively and robustly."

Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK News

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting