POLITICS
16/03/2021 14:12 GMT | Updated 16/03/2021 14:14 GMT

Protests Can Legally Resume From March 29, Downing Street Says

Demonstrations can go ahead once “stay at home” rules expire near the end of the month, Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson says.

Protests can legally go ahead from March 29 when “stay at home” coronavirus rules expire, Downing Street has said.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said demonstrations would be permitted from that date so long as they were Covid-secure.

Organisers will need to submit risk assessments and ensure “appropriate” social distancing is maintained, the spokesperson said.

“The stay at home order will lift on March 29, which means it is no longer illegal to leave your home save for the exemptions which we are all aware of,” they told reporters.

“In line with that, as you saw under tiers 1 to 3 previously, protests will also be able to resume from March 29.”

The announcement came amid calls for demos to be allowed during lockdown after police turned violent at a vigil and protest in memory of Sarah Everard on Saturday night.

The Metropolitan Police has faced intense criticism for scuffles and arrests as hundreds gathered at a bandstand covered in floral tributes to the 33-year-old.

At one stage, male officers could be seen grabbing hold of several women before leading them away in handcuffs, to shouts and screams from onlookers.

Ian WestPA
Demonstrators during a Reclaim the Streets protest on Westminster Bridge, central London, in memory of Sarah Everard who went missing while walking home from a friend's flat on March 3

On Monday, senior Tory MPs including the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, warned that Covid restrictions had gone too far in allowing “swingeing powers to control protests for the period of the coronavirus restrictions”.

Charles Walker, vice chair of the 1922 Committee, said: “This House criminalised the freedom of protest – this House. Us.

“Not [Met Police commissioner] Dame Cressida [Dick]. Not the Metropolitan Police. We did. We criminalised the freedom to protest collectively. We are up to our eyeballs in this.

“Does [Patel] agree with me that now is the time to decriminalise freedom of protest, not tomorrow, not next week, but this afternoon, this evening? Let’s get people back on the streets. Let’s allow people to get things off their chest again. Protest is a safety valve.”

It also comes amid an outcry over government plans to crack down on protesters’ rights longer term in the Policing, Crime and Sentencing Bill.

Labour plans to vote against the legislation on Tuesday night but it is expected to pass its second reading because of the government’s majority of 80.

On Monday night protesters gathered for the second night in a row to demonstrate against the handling of Everard’s vigil and the government’s bill.