On Saturday, a small number of harmless (if somewhat eccentric) protesters gathered at Speakers’ Corner. Under the Coronavirus Act and Guidelines demonstrations are not essential activities and are thus banned, so even at this symbolic site of British liberties, you cannot protest against lockdown, because of lockdown.
One of us went to Hyde Park and observed the overzealous policing. Various hand-made placards decried the lockdown and other concerns such as 5G safety, compulsory vaccinations and human microchipping. At a lull in proceedings, three policemen piled onto a man who was standing in the crowd and carted him off to the back of a police van, traumatising a young girl who was standing nearby; she ran away in tears frightened by the violence of the arrest.
When the star of the show Piers Corbyn arrived, two dozen police officers marched into the fray and surrounded him. He determinedly delivered his speech, knowing that the uniformed posse was not for his protection but to cart him off to the cells afterwards. That’s what happened a fortnight ago in an earlier protest at the same place, and indeed he was arrested again.
A dozen policemen then approached onlookers and asked us to move on. A policeman said to me, ‘If you’re not part of this demonstration will you move away. This is an illegal demonstration.’ After I moved away, several policemen targeted a man whose only offence seemed to be he was wearing a black and white prisoner’s fancy-dress costume. They bundled him into the back of a police van too.
Lockdown sceptics, whether they were in Hyde Park or availing themselves of the glorious sunshine at the beach, will be taking note of a very different policing at Trafalgar Square on Sunday. Over a thousand assembled for a rally organised by Black Lives Matter (BLM), an international group that campaigns against police discrimination and brutality towards black people. It attracts a young white middle-class following as well as black people
The unsocially distanced crowd held placards and chanted about racist police. Their anger was provoked not by an incident in Tottenham (as in the 2011 riots) but in America.
Numerous officers stood by at ease, as if watching a game of cricket on a village green. No fines, no arrests, not even polite requests to go home. So much for the ‘new normal’. Or maybe this is normality now, and moral relativism has won. It seems that some protests are more equal than others: a few peaceful anti-lockdown protestors who are no threat to anyone get the Full Monty, but hundreds of highly divisive race activists are treated with kid gloves. Anyone with an ounce of critical thinking can see that this is wrong.
Over the last week all we heard on the news was a furore about Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings breaking the lockdown to drive his family to Durham, where his elderly parents reside. The details were deliberately twisted by the mainstream media, whose moralising about the virus was a thin veneer for the metropolitan elite taking revenge on the man who had masterminded Brexit and Boris’ recent election landslide. Some commentators claimed that Cummings had infected the north of England, as if he had been systematically coughing Covid-19 out of the windows, en route to the great castle of Barnard.
Suddenly another pressing problem has supplanted the coronavirus. The Metro newspaper issued a helpful guide to the Black Lives Matter marches in London and Manchester. A high proportion of the protestors appeared to be the same middle-class progressives who were outraged by ‘man drives car during lockdown’: the same people who clapped every Thursday with an increasingly politicised worship of the NHS. Yet now they are protesting against equally important key-workers.
If Mayor Sadiq Khan, a lockdown enthusiast, had any consistency he will tell those flouting the rules that they’re behaving far worse than Cummings, and that Minneapolis is not a London borough. It is more likely that he will find some way to twist the events to attack President Trump rather than keeping London safe and its roads clear.
Inevitably the Black Lives Matter protest attracted the militantly self-righteous Antifa, whose flags were unfurled outside Downing Street. ‘F*** the police’, they shouted in unison. What will Boris and Priti Patel do? Probably issue some platitudes on our diverse and tolerant city, and hope that calm resumes. However, with lockdown becoming untenable, pent-up frustrations may be unleashed.
Reacting to riots in American cities, Trump has proscribed Antifa as a terrorist organisation. About time too. Next he could temporarily shut down Twitter, which has persistently censored conservative opinion while allowing leftists to organise violent demonstrations and boast about their exploits.
There is absolutely no justification for attacking British police for a death 5000 miles away in Minneapolis (one American officer has been charged with third-degree murder of a suspect). Unless there is stiff resolve, we are facing a long hot summer of hate and destruction. High streets are facing enough economic carnage without the addition of menacing mobs, arson and looting.
This weekend shows that while there is martial law for a few lockdown protestors appealing for basic liberties, softy softly policing is ordered wherever there is virtue-signalling currency for the intelligentsia, politically-correct institutions and commentariat. If a 73-year-old man with a megaphone is arrested while thugs shouting ‘F*** the Police’ get free rein, the principle of equality before the law has been dispensed in the most egregious fashion. This is not only the end of lockdown; it’s the end of the law.
David Kurten & Niall McCrae