Offences under current emergency legislation were only one of the reasons the Metropolitan Police relied upon to arrest 86 people across the Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the weekend, although it remains unclear why a small number were detained for participating in gatherings of more than six people when there were thousands who were present. The Met’s approach contrasts with police forces elsewhere, where most took a hands-off approach, and no arrests were made.
On both Saturday and Sunday evenings, a number of protesters were kettled, which Netpol in a statement said was disproportionate and unlawful. A thread on Twitter by one of the participants on Sunday described how protesters were “trying to make an effort to social distance when possible” but that “this was simply not possible within the kettle and efforts had to be abandoned”.
Barristers Rebecca Penfold and Aparna Rao have argued that limiting the right to freedom of assembly and associations is an unavoidable side-effect of the pandemic and that it is unlikely that the “right to protest” would triumph over temporary health restrictions.
In the north of Ireland, Amnesty International has accused the Legislative Assembly of making an “unacceptable, last-minute” amendment to coronavirus regulations to allow the police to fine protestors at Black Lives Matters rallies. Nevertheless, a unionist Member of the assembly has claimed the credibility of lockdown regulations has been undermined by police inaction at the protests, despite complaints that the police had fined people attending demonstrations in Belfast and Derry and the assistant chief constable seeking to have the organisers of the Belfast rally prosecuted.
One academic has warned that Britain must be braced for widespread riots this summer, as poorer people and areas are hit harder by the coronavirus fallout.
Adam Elliott-Cooper discussing the huge Black Lives Matter protests all over the UK on Sky News: “If Met police chiefs are so concerned about social distancing, then why were stop and searches at a nine-year high last month – spreading the virus for the sake of small quantities of cannabis.”
Police in Hampshire have admitted sex workers are at an increased risk of violence during the lockdown because of a fear of prosecution for breaching social distancing rules.
In Scotland, South Ayrshire Council has started using police to track down shielding people who have not responded to checks.
Academics in Leeds have obtained a huge grant to work with the Metropolitan Police Durham and Lancashire Police to collate information and data about the levels and types of crimes following the outbreak of coronavirus, when officers were otherwise busy issuing large numbers of fines for failing to comply with lockdown measures. These “crimes” do not appear to form part of the study.
In Hackney, the local Mayor has echoed a warning also made by Netpol in March and said that “police anticipate that as the lockdown eases, racial attacks will increase”.
Latest on the Lockdown Challenge in the UK courts. On 26 May, a judicial review was launched in the High Court to challenge the lawfulness of the Lockdown Regulations. This UK Human Rights blog post discusses the “somewhat half-baked new quarantine scheme.”
How not to use tech in a pandemic – Frederike Kaltheuner is putting together a timeline of the UK’s (pretty disastrous) tech response.
It took Foxglove and openDemocracy two months to force the UK government to release the contracts for the NHS ‘data deal’ with Faculty, Palantir, Amazon, Microsoft & Google. First findings in openDemocracy. “Significantly, the contracts reveal that the Dominic Cummings-linked firm Faculty is being paid more than £1m to provide AI services for the NHS. The documents also show that terms of that deal were changed after initial demands for transparency were made by Foxglove under the Freedom of Information Act.”
Taking on the Tech Titans: Reclaiming our Data Commons TNI Webinar Wednesday 10 June 3pm UK time. #COVID19 has delivered record profits for Big Tech, while states are rolling out new apps with almost no consideration of privacy or human rights. What opportunities are available in this time of a pandemic to advance digital justice?