A formal statement by Greater Manchester Police has been released this morning following the large-scale anti-lockdown demonstrations that took place in Manchester city centre last weekend.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey and Bev Hughes – Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice – have issued a plea urging the public to consider the impact that meeting in large gatherings has on communities and the health service, and have appealed to anyone who may be considering organising or attending illegal mass gatherings and protests to “reconsider”.
It comes ahead of the second weekend in national lockdown and follows last weekend’s joint anti-lockdown, anti-mask, anti-vaccine and anti-establishment demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens.
Under national lockdown restrictions currently in place across England, only two people from different households are permitted to meet outside in public.
In the statement published via the Greater Manchester Police Website this morning, ACC Nick Bailey said: “Following the events over the weekend which saw more than 600 people gather at Piccadilly Gardens, I want to appeal to anyone who may be considering organising or attending illegal mass gatherings and protests to reconsider, and to think about the impact these events are having on our communities, on our health service and the ability of police to keep the public safe.
“We are all familiar with the risks the coronavirus presents, and the gatherings we have seen to protest are against COVID legislation, and risk spreading the virus and prolonging the restrictions placed on our region.
“Since Thursday 5 November, the legislation has changed, and protests are no longer exempt from these restrictions. This now means that whilst we are in lockdown, any gatherings of more than two people outside who don’t live together are illegal, and police are obligated to disperse these gatherings.
“Whilst we will continue to engage with individuals, explain restrictions and encourage compliance before enforcing, people must take responsibility for their actions, and where gatherings or protests take place we are obliged to take action through dispersal and the imposing of fines to attendees and organisers.”
He continued: “Greater Manchester Police has a long history of facilitating safe protest and respecting people’s rights to protest, but we are currently in a very different position, and whilst Greater Manchester suffers through the pandemic our top priority is to keep the public safe.
“Therefore we simply cannot sit back and allow these gatherings to take place.
“We all want to come out of the health crisis with a clear conscience knowing we did everything we could to stop the spread of the virus.
“So I am today asking the public to do their bit during the lockdown, allow us to use our resources where it is most needed, and reduce the demand on our health service by staying away from protests and other large gatherings.”
Bev Hughes added: “We must continue to abide by the regulations because we know that if we stick to them we will see a reduction, and at a faster pace.”
You can read the statement in full here.
For the latest information, guidance and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, please do refer to official sources at gov.uk/coronavirus.