Police Seek Ban on Protests in the UK over Coronavirus After Weeks of Mass Black Lives Matter Gatherings

Police officers block the entrance to the Strand after protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement clash with opponents in central London on June 13, 2020, in the aftermath of the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody in the US. - Police in London have urged …
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Britain’s top police union has called on the government to ban protests, after weeks of Black Lives Matter demonstrations. However, the call to ban protests only came after ‘right-wing’ counter-protesters gathered in London over the weekend.

The Police Federation of England and Wales decried the “mindless hooliganism” and “utterly shocking” violence of supposedly ‘far-right’ demonstrators, calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel to ban protests. The police union claimed that the gatherings should be banned in light of the Chinese coronavirus, despite failing to make a similar call in previous weeks while at-times quite violent protests by other groups were ongoing.

“In normal times, the principle of having the right to peaceful protests is an important one. However, we are not in normal times, we are tackling a deadly virus which is indiscriminate in who it can affect,” the chairman of the Police Federation, John Apter, said per The Guardian.

“I urge the home secretary to be unequivocal in her terms that whilst we are under the threat of this virus, any large gathering or protest must be banned,” Apter went on to demand.

The police union did not call for such a ban until a group of British soccer fans, nationalists, and veterans staged counter-protests with the stated purpose of protecting national monuments to war heroes and historical figures.

While there were instances of violence against police officers during the demonstration, far more law enforcement officials were injured during the ‘largely peaceful‘ Black Lives Matter protests over the past weeks.

Were a ban on protests to be imposed on the country, it would require Home Secretary Priti Patel to authorise the use of the Public Order Act of 1986.

The order can be used to ban mass public gatherings if the government deems them to risk “serious disruption to the life of the community” or if there is a threat of “significant damage” to historical monuments or important buildings.

The chairman of London’s Metropolitan Police Federation, Ken Marsh, said that he agreed with the ban on protests, saying that he was “absolutely appalled” by instances of violence allegedly committed by ‘far-right’ protesters, while again neglecting to comment on similar acts of violence apparently at the hands of BLM agitators.

“Absolutely, 100 per cent,” Marsh said of banning protests, adding: “We’re in the middle of a pandemic still. I’ve said this before: my colleagues don’t have any choice about being there, we’re in the middle of a Covid-19 pandemic. It is unlawful what is taking place under the COVID legislation. Ban them.”

“It’s down to the home secretary and the government to get this done. I’ve heard it publicly played out, the home secretary saying the mayor should ban it, the mayor saying it’s the home secretary’s fault… Come on, get a grip. Just sort it out,” he said.

A Home Office spokesman said that Patel does not have the unilateral authority to impose a ban on public demonstrations, claiming that local authorities would first need to issue a request to the government for the Public Order legislation to be initiated.

“The home secretary has, along with other government ministers, made repeatedly clear in interviews, in parliament, on social media and directly to the police, that these protests are illegal and put public health at risk. Any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate,” the Home Office said.

“She continues to urge the public in the strongest terms not to attend protests or gatherings. They are illegal and are putting the public at risk,” the spokesman added.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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