Police in Essex have arrested the owner of a Harlow gym on day one of the UK’s draconian national lockdown, hours after she vowed to stay open and accused the government of inflating Covid-19 statistics. Patrons were also fined.
Video shot outside the Ripped Gym in Wych Elm on Thursday shows dozens of Essex Police officers and several police cars on the scene as an officer demands that a woman believed to be the owner accept a £1,000 fine for breaching the newly implemented lockdown.
Gym owner in Harlow, Essex arrested this morning for opening their business.We need to see more of this non-compliance.#WeDoNotConsent#WeWillNotComply#lockdownpic.twitter.com/TytEUhTDzX
The woman refuses to provide her name or other ID details to the cops, claiming to be protected “under common law,” and is then arrested for not cooperating. Essex Police confirmed on Thursday they had arrested “a gym owner in Harlow” on “suspicion of breaching coronavirus legislation,” also revealing they’d filed a prohibition notice requiring her to close the business indefinitely.
The police’s statement claimed they’d been tipped off about “social media posts” advertising that the gym would remain open. The force also encouraged the public to continue turning people in for breaching restrictions, but carefully, advising them to “check” to ensure they aren’t “mis-reading a situation” before contacting police.
Ten “fixed penalty notice tickets” were also issued to gym members who were exercising when officers showed up to question the owner, the police statement confirmed. Police were seen standing guard over the entrances and exits to Ripped Gym after the owner had been taken away and the patrons asked to leave.
The gym’s owner, identified only as Michelle by local media, vowed earlier on Thursday morning that her gym would remain open in spite of the strict second lockdown in an interview with neighborhood outlet Your Harlow, explaining that “we deem ourselves essential for our members and their mental health.” She accused the UK government of exaggerating Covid-19 numbers to justify the four-week lockdown, which has forced gyms – deemed a “non-essential business” – to close, along with all other sports facilities.
While she had followed government orders and shut down her gym in March, even though “we struggled and we lost a lot of members,” she now says she feels “cheated” and “lied to.”
“I’m willing to lose this business for what I believe in, and I believe the government’s lying,” she said, acknowledging that she did “expect a visit from the authorities.”
Ripped Gym was not the only vocally anti-lockdown business to be targeted by police on the first day of the second nationwide shutdown. Gainz Fitness and Strength in Bedford reportedly received a visit from Bedfordshire Police on Thursday after vowing to remain open despite the harsh restrictions. Owner Alex Lowndes was hit with a prohibition notice ordering him to close his business or face a hefty fine. Three patrons were reportedly fined.
Aneesa and Jesse California, who run California Fitness in East Devon, have similarly vowed to remain open despite the restrictions, arguing the area has a vanishingly low rate of Covid-19 infection and that exercise is vital to the mental and physical health of gym patrons. It’s not known if the Californias have gotten a visit from the police yet.
Gyms are among the many businesses declared “non-essential” under the new lockdown rules, which have left some scratching their heads. Schools and universities that place pupils in close quarters are allowed to remain open, while gyms and sporting facilities must close their doors. Some Brits used the final day before the second lockdown to head to airports and flee on holidays before the latest measures were enforced.
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