Protests are no longer exempt under the UK-wide coronavirus lockdown that begins Thursday, and police plan to enforce that rule, unlike during the previous lockdown, according to UK media.
Demonstrations consisting of more than two people will be made expressly illegal under the second national lockdown, which is expected to take effect Thursday. Police allowed large protests, in particular for the Black Lives Matter movement, during the first lockdown even as individual British families were barred from getting together – a situation many found unfair.
A Home Office spokeswoman avoided ruling protests out completely, telling Yahoo News UK that “the right to peaceful protest is one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” but added that “any gathering risks spreading the disease, leading to more deaths, so it is vital we all play our part in controlling the virus.”
Police have reportedly received instruction from Home Secretary Priti Patel to break up any protest involving more than two people from Thursday on. However, a government source told The Times that protests would not explicitly be prohibited in the lockdown legislation which is scheduled to be voted on Wednesday and take effect the following day. Instead, the loophole that allowed protests while families were prevented from gathering will be closed.
Nevertheless, some officers fear that people will be more inclined to take to the streets because of the restrictions, as one police source told The Times, adding that “this is going to cause a lot of trouble.”
People are going to be extremely angry and there are concerns they’ll protest the fact they can’t protest.
News of a second lockdown has already triggered protests in the suburbs of London, where hundreds of people took to the streets over the weekend to denounce the proposed national shutdown. The demonstration was organized by the group StandUpX, which warns that the pandemic is being weaponized to permanently deprive UK residents of their freedoms. PM Boris Johnson has insisted this second national lockdown will end in December, though that is likely cold comfort to those who remember the original “two weeks to flatten the curve” that instead stretched on for months.
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