Minister wants protests of more than two people banned

News / Tue 3rd Nov 2020 at 07:07am

PROTESTS of more than two people will be banned during the month-long lockdown set to start on Thursday, according to Whitehall sources. reports the Daily Mail.

Ministers have said the rules need to be clear and Home Secretary Priti Patel is said to have briefed chief constables over the weekend to tell officers to enforce the rules. 

However, it is believed that some senior officers are worried that the move is too oppressive for a liberal society. 

And one barrister is concerned the move could breach human rights.  

A Whitehall source told The Times that even though protests won’t explicitly be prohibited, the previous exemption – which allowed demonstrations of more than two people – would be removed.  

The new edict has allegedly been enforced to make it easier for police to enforce the rules. 

Some UK citizens reportedly complained during the country’s first lockdown that they weren’t allowed to see their families while thousands of others were allowed to demonstrate together.  

Priti Patel read the riot act to Bristol police chief, Andy Marsh, whose officers failed to stop Black Lives Matter protesters ripping down a slave trader’s statue in June. 

She stamped down her authority during a ‘firm’ conversation with Mr Marsh.

The minister, who has burnished a tough reputation for law and order during her political career, ordered an explanation as to why constables did not intervene to stop the vandals, according to the Times.

In a video post on social media, Andy Marsh said: ‘Can you imagine the scenes of police in Bristol fighting with protester who were damaging the statue of a man who is reputed to have gathered much of his fortune during the slave trade.

‘I think there would have been very serious implications. And while I do not condone crime in any sort, I fully support the actions of my officers.

‘They responded with common sense, sound judgement and in the best interests of public safety.’

Ms Patel’s direct conversation with Chief Constable Marsh raised eyebrows as individual forces are independent of Whitehall and are held to account by locally elected police and crime commissioners. 

However, many senior police officers believe an integral part of their job is to facilitate protests in a democratic society. 

One source told The Times: ‘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.’

Barrister Adam Wagner understands the government wants to discourage marches but notes that if they were expressly banned it could breach human rights.   

A Home Office spokesman told the publication: ‘The right to peaceful protest is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. In these unprecedented circumstances, any gathering risks spreading the dis- ease, leading to more deaths, so it is vital we all play our part in controlling the virus. 

‘People must follow the rules on meeting with others, which apply to all gatherings and therefore protests too.’

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