After the tragic death of Sarah Everard, grieving women come out to show solidarity in a candlelit vigil. Just as BLM encapsulated the moment that was the death of George Floyd, this mourning captured the mood of many across the nation.
The memorial/vigil turned ugly when the women were told to disperse and then were forcefully removed by police; the actions were described as acting “appropriately” by a police review of the events and backed by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
It was fateful timing for a government attempting to push a bill through parliament that would heavily restrict the right to protest and expand police powers to shut down demonstrations (even peaceful ones).
Despite all efforts to make the Sarah Everard vigil “covid compliant” and officially sanctioned the police refused due to covid safety concerns, as is their right. The local council deferred to the police and they exercised a power that the majority of our MP’s gave to them willingly and much of the country and media not only accepted, but often decried as being insufficient.
Anti-lockdown protests were condemned as super spreader events whilst BLM protests were cheered. We cannot allow our support of the right to protest become confused with our dislike of the cause of the protestors.
For the best part of a year there has been a small group of journalists and campaigners who have pushed back against the removal of many of our civil liberties, rightly pointing out that once taken away, these rights are often difficult to get back. They have been marginalised and slandered as not caring enough or being covid deniers, but this is the exact situation that they warned of, one where police abuse the powers that have been granted to them as part of covid laws.
Last weekend protesters – led by Piers Corbyn and actor Laurence Fox – marched through London calling for an end to lockdowns and restrictions. There were clashes with police later that evening with the Metro reporting that glass bottles were thrown at police and “a group of around one hundred chased police vehicles, punching and kicking them, as they left the area today.”
Now we’ve seen violence and protest flair up over the past week all across the country.
There’s been a number of #killthebill protests in Bristol over the past two weeks, the latest of which involved a sit down blocking the M32 – 7 arrests were made and police clashed with protestors.
In London 10 officers were injured and 26 arrested in a #killthebill protest, where police again clashed with protestors. Elsewhere thousands of people took part in other #killthebill protests in Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Cardiff, Oxford, Cambridge and Dorset.
There have even been allegations swirling on Twitter that one individual who unfurled a “kill cops” banner, was later seen to be working with the Met police. Suggesting that the police are happy to send in under-cover agents to provoke more violence and animosity in protests and demonstrations.
Man who unfurled a “kill cops” banner at a demo later spotted working with police. Surprised? You shouldn’t be: this is standard Met operating behaviour. https://t.co/JwXQSbClMQ— Ian Betteridge (@ianbetteridge) April 3, 2021
In Northern Ireland, there have been appeals for peace after 4 nights of riots in Derry and several nights of violence in Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus triggered by loyalist anger over the Irish Sea border. Three cars were hijacked and set alight and petrol bombs were launched at the police.
There were also clashes at Sandy Row in Belfast with projectiles again thrown at police.
These are the actions of an desperate and volatile populace. More than a year of lockdowns has been unnatural and incredibly difficult for many to handle and it is no wonder that people are lashing out when they are given an excuse – whether you consider the cause to be legitimate or not.
It is becoming increasingly clear that lockdowns and lack of freedom have and will continue to cause civil unrest, they may not be causing the the protests, but they are certainly exacerbating them. We cannot treat an adult population as if they are all children. We cannot allow the police and a government who have shown a very willing disregard for human rights, civil rights, and democratic norms to use covid as an excuse to push through laws that would make authoritarians grin. This cause should unite everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to stand up for the rights and freedoms that our ancestors fought and died for by the millions.