Covid ‘hoax’ protest in city centre was lawful but ‘disappointing’

A meeting of several hundred unmasked protesters who gathered in the city centre was lawful, said police.

For the second day in a row, a large group assembled to protest about lockdown restrictions, in defiance of both “the rule of six” and the even tougher restrictions brought in when the Liverpool City Region was placed in the highest Tier Three category last week.

On this occasion, the crowd listened to ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers say “this Covid-19 virus is a hoax”, in front of a poster peddling various other baseless theories including about 5G phone masts.

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Among the placards seen at the gathering in Clayton Square was one sign comparing the country’s top medics and scientists to Nazis, saying ‘Whitty, Vallance, Ferguson, Nuremberg Type Trial Awaits’ in reference to the trials of war criminals following the Second World War.

As with yesterday’s meeting in St John’s Gardens – which was billed as a “mental health awareness rally” – the event was watched over by police, who ruled that both were lawful.

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Following today’s event, Assistant Chief Constable Jon Roy said: “Merseyside Police has been clear in advising people not to gather to protest under the current restrictions.

“Disappointingly for a second day this weekend, protestors chose to gather in Liverpool. We continue to urge people to consider ways of making themselves heard that do not pose a risk to the health of those attending as well as the people they may come into contact with afterwards.

“Under current coronavirus legislation however, protest can be lawful if certain conditions are met and in this case they were.

“Participants were regularly asked by speakers to spread out and officers monitoring the demonstration observed people complying.

Hundreds of people showed up at the gathering, almost all without wearing face-coverings, and with some holding placards.
(Image: Geoff Davies)

“Officers remained in attendance until the protest ended.

“Throughout this pandemic, our officers have engaged with people and encouraged them to adhere to the restrictions – only moving to enforcement when necessary.

“Officers engaged with the organiser to ensure that she complied with her risk assessment and in this case it was not necessary to take the next step of enforcement.

“However it is incredibly frustrating that we have had to police such a protest again this weekend, and had the protest become unlawful, we would not have hesitated to take enforcement action.

“Merseyside Police has shown that we are prepared to take strong enforcement action when it is needed, and will continue to do so.”

Liverpool Echo – Liverpool News