UK Police Break Up ‘Prayer Meeting’ In Birmingham Park

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 05: A Police car is seen patrolling Greenwich Park on April 5, 2020 in London, England . The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 60,000 lives and infecting over 1 million people. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Peter Summers/Getty Images

Police in Birmingham, England dispersed a group of 20 people who had gathered in a local park for ‘a prayer meeting’.

The group of men, dressed in traditional Islamic garb, had gathered on a basketball court to pray, but the prayer meeting was in violation of the government’s social distancing orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This week we have worked with local faith leaders to help us reinforce the suspension of all congregational activities in line with the government restrictions in a bid to prevent and slow down the transmission of (COVID-19),” said a police spokesperson per Birmingham Live.

“Unfortunately on this occasion, this group have not adhered to the restrictions,” the spokesperson added.

“Our officers spoke with the group and after explaining the current guidelines around social distancing, they dispersed,” the spokesperson concluded.

The incident came one day after a local Labour Party MP, Tahir Ali was informed by police that he was possibly guilty of “a suspected breach of coronavirus restrictions” when he attended a funeral with a group of one hundred other people.

Under the terms of the nationwide lockdown, public gatherings are banned and police have been granted the power to disperse groups and hand out fines of up to £120 for those breaking the rules.

On Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that if people continue to break the coronavirus lockdown measures, then the government may be forced to suspend all outdoor activities including the daily exercise that is currently permitted.

“We’ve said because of the positive benefits to your physical and your mental health that it’s OK to exercise on your own or with members of your own household,” Mr Hancock said in comments reported by The Sun.

“But if the result of that is that too many people go out and flout the other rules because they say ‘well if I can exercise then it’s fine for me to do other things’ then I’m afraid we will have to take action,” Hancock warned.

“If you don’t want us to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside the home, you have got to follow the rules,” he concluded.

The threats from the Health Secretary came as thousands of people across London flouted the lockdown rules to enjoy the warm weather over the weekend. Brockwell Park announced that it would be closed to the public after an estimated 3,000 people gathered to sunbathe on Saturday.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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