Retailers fear ‘terrorist-style’ tactics used by campaigners to get a newspaper off shelves could encourage other pressure groups to take similar action.
It comes after ‘Total Eclipse of The S*n’ campaigners in Liverpool forced The Sun newspaper off sale at stores in and around the city due to its coverage of the Hillsborough inquiry.
Store owners have told RN the tactics used have been intimidating and in some cases bordering on harassment. They fear retailers giving in to the demands could lead to other pressure groups adopting similar tactics to make their voices heard.
“It’s down to personal choice what I sell. It shouldn’t be up to another group to say you shouldn’t sell alcohol, The Sun, or cigarettes. Where does it stop?” the owner of a newsagent, who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions, told RN. “Everyone should make their own choice.”
Retailers have told RN the campaigners have threatened to stand outside their stores in groups of five or six with placards discouraging shoppers from using the shop until they remove the paper.
RN understands around 40 stores have stopped selling the paper.
“I think it is totally wrong that the activity is being reported approvingly locally,” another retailer said. He has taken the paper off sale because he feared repercussions, but is continuing to deliver ordered copies.
“That behaviour in any other sphere would be talked about as intimidation. If other groups spot that potential, it could start to happen in a wider context.”
EDIT: Since the article was published, we have spoken with the Total Eclipse of the Sun group. Ralph Hadley, admin of the group, addressed retailers concerns and supplied the following response:
“The main concerns from the shopkeepers you spoke to seem to be we are intimidating them to stop selling the Sun newspaper. This is not true, if you check our Facebook page you will see we are only posting shops that have decided to stop selling the Sun and we are encouraging our members to support those shops. If this leads to a commercial decision from other shops to join us this is fine but it is not intimidation, it is our members exercising their right to decide where to spend their money.
“A second concern is this might lead to contagion and other protest groups adopting similar tactics. Firstly there is no other product that has the strength of feeling in Merseyside that this newspaper has. They chose to publish the most hateful lies about our people under a headline called the truth which contributed to the families waiting 27 years for the real truth to emerge.
“This concern does not mean we cannot exercise our democratic right to protest against this publication.”