25 – 27 June Update

POLICING

Ministers risk ‘considerable unrest’ during the next phase of lockdown easing if they continue ordering tough crackdowns on disorder, police commissioners have warned. Clampdown on lockdown-breaching parties ‘could provoke considerable unrest’, after the police have clashed with residents breaking up raves in Brixton and Tottenham, with people arrested and officers injured. Instead of community de-escalation as the priority, as Netpol suggested, police fuel the fear of a repeat of the London 2011 riots and reportedly had thousand riot officers and dog units on standby this weekend.

More than 200 people have been caught wild camping in the Lake District, with 20 people fined for having a party on one of the fells and others lighting fires on summits. After Lake District residents complained about damage to walls, fences and trees; tents, suitcases and clothing abandoned and rubbish left for others to clear, officials from the Lake District National Park, the National Trust, Forestry England and Cumbria county council and police spent Saturday night “educating” those breaking lockdown rules, prohibiting overnight stays and fining those who refused to pack up and go home.

Understanding it’s impossible to ban Black Lives Matter protests at this moment in time, even though gatherings of more than 30 people are forbidden under the lockdown regulations, police turn to unlawful measures to avoid trouble with public order. To facilitate a planned Black Lives Matter vigil at Keel Square in Sunderland, Northumbria Police issued a Section 14 order forbidding any other public assembly, including counter-protests, to ensure the public’s safety. This is in effect a selective ban that could only have been imposed under s14A with the consent of the Home Secretary and applied to all, David Mead, professor of protest law at the University of East Anglia, has argued. The Metropolitan Police was severely criticised for using the same public order powers against Extinction Rebellion protesters last year.

The confusion between what is guidance and what is the law continues. After ministers ignored police chiefs’ warning over the risks of lifting lockdown measures in England, tens of thousands flock to beaches causing chaotic scenes. Struggling with packed beaches in what was the hottest week of the year so far, a Bournemouth officer said, “They seem to forget the law is to remain two metres apart from people outside your household.” This is, however, government guidance rather than the law. This kind of arbitrary implementation of lockdown measures – something we have documented repeatedly since March – may explain why people now refuse to listen.

The government is refusing to repeal a “draconian” coronavirus law – despite it being used to wrongly prosecute scores of people, The Coronavirus Act has not been used lawfully in a single criminal case since it came into force on 25 March.

Despite the evidence, as discussed in earlier blog entries, Cumbria’s police chief rejects claims his officers ‘dealt disproportionately with ethnic minorities’ during the lockdown, insisting most fines for people from black and minority communities were for ‘outsiders’ (as if that makes it OK).

Stop and search has increased considerably during the lockdown; increasing by almost 50% from April 2019 to April 2020, despite there being significantly fewer people on the streets. Read more in the latest blog from Hodge Jones & Allen, civil liberty lawyers.

RESOURCES

Know Your Rights leaflets by Bristol Anarchist Black Cross have been updated to include the minor changes in lockdown regulations in Wales that came in last week.

Coronavirus lockdown eased: what you can and can’t do from 4 July, The Guardian.

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