In Glasgow, on Saturday, the police disrupted a socially-distanced Black Lives Matter protest at George Square, kettling protesters with dangerous disregard for their health, keeping them contained for several hours, before moving protesters to another square and letting them go little by little. Good thread reporting the events by video.
Warnings by police about large public gatherings over the summer solstice weekend were less focused on protests on the streets in London and other cities and more on the perennial dangers of illegal rave culture – history continues to repeat itself during the pandemic, although this time it is the coronavirus, rather than drug use, that was the main concern.
On Friday, Vice UK ran a piece suggesting Britain’s illegal coronavirus raves are impossible to police and spoke to rave organisers about social distancing regulations. One tried to justify no longer trying to enforce them by pointing to “the complete lack of consistency across the Cummings debacle and the many protests happening across the country”.
As CNN pointed out, lockdown parties are organised by and for young people in predominantly working-class cities who face the imminent prospect of another decade of recession and austerity and who “feel like a pause button has been pressed down hard” on their lives. The police have, inevitably, treated this as a public order threat rather than a health risk with warnings they would use drones and dogs, increased road patrols and intensive intelligence gathering to track down illegal gatherings. As has been common throughout the last three months, there were appeals too for the public to report suspected unlawful activities to the police.
Over the weekend West Midlands Police and Staffordshire Police made thirteen arrests and there were reports of raves on the Cheshire/Derbyshire border, Liverpool, Blackpool and Wiltshire. Avon and Somerset Police were unable to seize a sound system used for a Stokes Croft street party due to the “potential for serious disorder”.
Meanwhile, the president of the Police Superintendents’ Association told the Independent that Britain is facing a “summer of discontent”, fuelled by tensions exacerbated by “frustration” over coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and the prospect of a severe economic downturn. Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths said, “there’s a real moment in time where this, along with social injustice issues and racial discrimination, could come together to create further problems.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan faced serious questions are being asked about the use of stop-and-search by the Metropolitan Police during the -19 lockdown at the Mayor’s Question Time on Friday.
Despite his force issuing one of the highest numbers of fines, especially in the early days of the lockdown, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said the police had “risen to the unique challenges brought by the pandemic” and had been “hugely impressive”.
On Friday, the government said people with disabilities should “never face intimidation on public transport” over face mask rules, following reports that British Transport Police officers were refusing to let people through station barriers without face coverings, even if they were exempt.
One thing the police is definitely not monitoring is safety concens at the workplace. Construction workers are being sacked and then blacklisted for complaining about the lack of social distancing at Manchester Airport – 13 weeks with no pay.
Democracy, protests, and Covid-19: the challenge of (and for) human rights. Christopher McCrudden in UK Constitutional Law, also on alternative forms of protest under the new normal.
Does the two-metre rule actually mean anything? “Two-metre rule is not binding and if you don’t stick to it in England, it’s not clear there would be any legal repercussions if your customers caught the virus (though it might be bad PR)” the Financial Times concluded.
The Times reported over the weekend that the criminal justice system backlog has reached more than half a million cases with expected delays of up to five years for many trials.
Also in the Times: The government’s coronavirus app failure has left tracing plan in disarray. The National reported that nearly half of the UK public don’t have confidence in private outsourcing company Serco to deliver England’s coronavirus track and trace programme.
Exploiting a Pandemic, report by CageUK showing how national security actors have used the corona crisis as “an opportunity to give new lease of life to the vast, sprawling architecture of counter-terror.” Cage calls for an end to “the attempted fusion of security apparatus with public healthcare”, noting how existing entanglements of security and public services (e.g. the UK Prevent duty) have “subverted and undermined the practice and spirit of public services.”
A view from Yorkshire by Stop The Scan (9 June): COVID-19 penalty functions added to police mobiles, arguing that policing technology during COVID19 is entrenching, normalising and digitalising the racial profiling and discrimination inherent in practices related to stop and search even further.
Radio Outbreak’s latest podcast: ‘BLM updates, protesters rights, police tactics and surveillance with a testimony of an arrest describing the total lack of COVID19 precautions from the cops’.