UK Government to Ban Protest Crowds of More Than Two People
Home Secretary Priti Patel will order police to stop protests gathering amid new lockdown
Protests of more than two people will be banned in the UK during the month-long second national lockdown that begins on Thursday, according to reports.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has reportedly briefed police chief constables over the weekend to tell officers to enforce the rules.
The move comes after lawmakers insisted that the rules on large gatherings need to be clearer.
Some senior officers have expressed concerns that the move is too oppressive for a liberal society, however.
Some have also argued that the move could breach human rights.
Even though protests won't explicitly be prohibited, the previous exemption - which allowed demonstrations of more than two people - would be removed, a Whitehall source reportedly told The Times.
The new edict has allegedly been enforced to make it easier for police to enforce the rules, according to The Daily Mail.
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 protesters 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 judgment, 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 disease, 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."