On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square in what was billed as a “We Do Not Consent” protest.
Just what exactly those attending did not consent to was not immediately clear – pictures from the day show signs objecting to a wide variety of things, from masks to child sex-trafficking.
So what is going on?
For anyone angry at any aspect of the coronavirus pandemic and the UK’s response, your options for protest are limited almost entirely to groups willing to risk mass gatherings and the potential spread of the virus that goes with it.
Currently this means the largest events are being organised by those who believe the whole thing is a hoax.
And while there certainly are a large number of people in attendance with some wild ideas, the full picture is a little more nuanced.
Here are seven different types of protester at the event.
The lockdown sceptic
Greg* and his wife Theresa* were at Saturday’s march because of concerns legislation brought in to fight the pandemic amounts to a “destruction of our democratic rights”.
“The government are making decisions under the emergency acts that are not being debated in parliament and I don’t agree with it,” Greg says.
“I think it’s absolutely wrong.”
This turned out to be a view shared far beyond the confines of Trafalgar Square: Boris Johnson himself was this week facing a rebellion from backbench Tory MPs trying to ensure new restrictions were subject to Commons votes before being introduced. In the end, health secretary Matt Hancock attempted to meet the rebels halfway, saying any national lockdown would be debated by MPs “where possible” but steering clear of the same commitment for local lockdowns – that is, currently all the lockdowns.
Greg also worries that further lockdown restrictions could do more damage than the virus itself and it should be up to the individual, not government, to decide what to do.
“I agreed with the initial lockdown because we didn’t know or understand what was going on,” he says.
“But as knowledge has increased we’ve got to live with the virus. We can’t kick the can down the road and keep locking down – we’ve got to accept there’s a level of risk.
“And in my view, the people of the country should be able to make their own risk assessments and live a proper life without destroying the economy.”
Greg also expresses concern that “measures being brought in are more and more draconian”. His talk of the overreach of government quickly turns into scepticism about the actual science underpinning the UK’s response to the pandemic.
“The scientists from the government are presenting evidence which I frankly don’t believe myself,” he says.
Greg and Theresa both insist they “are not conspiracy theorists” and know people who have been registered as dying of Covid-19 – but don’t believe government figures are accurate.
“My wife’s grandfather died of so-called Covid,” says Greg. “He was 87 and he’d had a stroke and he’d had cancer three times. He died of a stroke, not of Covid-19. I don’t accept the figures – I don’t think they’re right.
“The PCR testing for example is fundamentally flawed. The government’s not admitting it but Dominic Raab was on Sky News and he actually let slip that we’re not testing at the airport because the test is only 7% accurate.
“Well if that’s right then 93% of the PCR tests that are being done, that the government is basing its policy on, are wrong.”
This claim about the accuracy of tests is incorrect but has been promoted widely on social media by a number of journalists including Julia Hartley-Brewer and Toby Young.
For many people at Trafalgar Square, the event was a family affair.
Joanne Cragg, 57, and Barry Gordon, 44, were at Saturday’s march with their 10-year-old daughter Eva, and are concerned how the pandemic is affecting young people.
“We’re here for the children. There’s not going to be a future for them as it should be – it’s wrong,” says Joanne.
In a report published this week, children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said children younger than 12 should be exempt from the “rule of six” limitation on social gatherings.
It also said children have been overlooked by policies aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, and urged the government to put their interests first in the event of a second national lockdown.
Barry adds: “Our stance is you should look after the people who need looking after, protect the elderly and the sick and let the economy continue, and let children continue to be children.”
But Joanne also suggests the scale of the pandemic is being overblown: “I’m not saying it’s a hoax, but it’s nowhere near where all the hype is at.”
Jenny, 60, told HuffPost UK she believes a healthy diet can protect people from coronavirus and says any eventual vaccine should not be made mandatory.
“We’ve all got an immune system and it works very well,” she says.
“I’ve mixed with everybody but I look after myself. I eat well but you get a lot of people who eat a load of shit and they walk around in a mask because they don’t want to get ill.
“Just stop smoking and drinking and eating shit. Treat your body with respect – don’t abuse it and expect somebody to come along and make it better for you.”
While there is evidence that conditions affected by lifestyle such as obesity put you at greater risk of dying from Covid-19, there is none to suggest diet alone can prevent you catching it.
Jenny also does not believe it’s a highly infections disease as she doesn’t know anyone who’s caught it.
“Is coronavirus highly infectious? I absolutely don’t believe it is,” she says.
“I know a lot of people and not one of them knows someone personally who has had it. I believe it’s around, but I don’t believe what they’re saying.
“I’d believe it if I saw a decent amount of people who had it like I do with ordinary flu. But I’ve yet to see that.”
The 5G sceptic
Gulab, a 54-year-old technician for Virgin Media, believes coronavirus is a manufactured bioweapon released by “the high and mighty” in order “to take control of the world”.
He’s a bit short on details but told HuffPost UK that Bill Gates – who is leading the global charge for a vaccine and has become a hate figure among sceptics – and George Soros (more on him below) are controlling a global plot to eradicate large sections of the world’s population.
“They think the earth belongs to them and they want it for themselves and they want to get rid of us lot,” he says.
To do this, he believes, an as-yet-unidentified person or group manufactured Covid-19 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China and then released it... practically next door.
“The 5G is somehow connected,” he insists. “If you put the map of Covid cases over the map of 5G [masts], it’s exactly the same.”
When it’s pointed out that coronavirus is essentially everywhere in the world where there are people, he says: “It doesn’t take effect until the 5G is turned on, it makes it worse.”
The 5G conspiracy theory is one of the most debunked of recent times and there is absolutely no evidence to support it.
The QAnon acolyte
Howard, 43, travelled from Cornwall to attend Saturday’s march and is a fervent believer in QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that began in the US but has slowly made its way over to these shores.
In short, it states that president Donald Trump isn’t actually president Donald Trump – he is in fact an undercover agent on a top secret mission to rid the world of evil and prevent a coup by liberal elites who also happen to be paedophiles.
Howard claims this shadowy global cabal consists of three main parts.
“One is the Rothschilds banking family, which controls all the central banks,” he said.
“Another side is the corrupt cabal inside the Saudi administration, and the third part of it is George Soros, who is the hitman for the Rothschilds.”
The Rothschilds and Soros feature heavily in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about global power networks and feed off centuries-old tropes.
As well as being anti-Semitic, the theory requires Saudi Arabia to work with prominent Jewish people whilst maintaining decades of very public hostility with Israel. Howard does not explain how or why this might be the case.
Undeterred, he goes on to explain the role of coronavirus.
“The coronavirus was designed to destroy Trump’s economy in the US, destroy his presidency and bankrupt the world,” he says.
“But if the corrupt cabal are in power when artificial intelligence comes of age in, say, 10 or 15 years, we are buggered, basically. The cabal will have full control over the planet.
“There will be no way of getting out of it.”
The so-called ‘#SaveTheChildren’ supporters
Originally the well-meaning initiative of the actual Save the Children charity, the #SaveTheChildren hashtag has been hijacked in recent months by an off-shoot of the QAnon movement.
As mentioned above, supporters of QAnon believe that those in power who run the shadowy cabal trying to control the world and bring down Donald Trump are also paedophiles.
The #SaveTheChildren supporters – again, nothing to do with the charity of the same name – has taken this aspect of the theory and run with it.
Craig*, who attended Saturday’s protest, told HuffPost UK: “It’s not addressed enough, how many kids are going missing and being sex-trafficked by the elite and other people in Hollywood, in the government.
“Can you tell me why there’s been nothing in the news about Hillary Clinton being in court recently for sex-trafficking children from Haiti and drinking their blood for andrenachrome?”
In essence, the #SaveTheChildren movement has taken the real-world cases of sex-trafficking such as that of Jeffrey Epstein and then applied them to those people deemed a threat by the QAnon movement – hence why Hillary Clinton regularly appears.
As for the part about child sacrifice and the consumption of andrenachrome – a chemical allegedly harvested from the blood and drunk to keep people young and healthy – that requires a bit more digging.
The only thing is, there is absolutely no evidence no matter how far you dig. It’s a theory that has developed through multiple and sinister misinterpretations of completely mundane things such as pizza shop signs, t-shirts with French words on them and even invitations to garden parties.
These are then condensed into social media posts like this...
Which are then read by at least some of the people who attended Saturday’s protest.
Clinton was involved in a court appearance back in June of this year, but did not actually testify. Her lawyer made a virtual appearance as part of the long-running saga about emails sent on a private server while she was Secretary of State.
It had nothing to do with child-trafficking or drinking anyone’s blood.
The true disbelievers
Of the six types of protester mentioned so far, all have accepted that coronavirus is real even if they disagree on how dangerous it is.
For an example of someone who thinks the entire thing is a hoax, look no further than one of the key speakers and organisers of the event – Piers Corbyn.
Speaking to the crowd on Saturday, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attempted to explain away the pandemic, saying: “I’m often asked: ‘Is there a deadly virus and, if not, how are people getting ill and dying?’
“Well, one, they make up the numbers and they tell us lies. There has been a flu around which, you know, people get.
“And the other thing is increased wi-fi, 4G and 5G. It’s a proven fact 5G and 4G and 3G does lower your immune systems. So, when they turn it up, some of you will get ill. And that will be used to increase the so-called Covid numbers.”
Corbyn also claimed wrongly that there was no scientific evidence of the virus existing.
“When we asked Boris Johnson and Bill Gates for evidence under proper, respected, scientific tests, that this dangerous virus exists, they could not reply,” he said.
“Now, don’t you think if they had evidence, they would show it to us? Exactly. So our conclusion is: it’s a hoax.”
He did not say who "we" was, or why the prime minister would engage in scientific discussion with a discredited weather forecaster about public health.
Doubling down on his positi, he added: “They also claim that they found the virus even though they haven’t seen it. And then they said they’ve even got a vaccine for it. A vaccine for something they can’t see. Well, that no one can see.
“They say [...] they’ve seen a genome sequence in a dish and that could be the virus. Now, that argument is bananas.
“I’m not going to go into the details of that, but that is the point. It is not an honest scientific method. They are just conning you.”
Like all viruses, the coronavirus is very small and cannot be seen by the naked eye.
There are thousands of studies proving it exists.