Mayor must discourage mass demonstrations to prevent second coronavirus peak
Sadiq Khan must stop protests from becoming superspreading events for coronavirus by discouraging mass demonstrations and publishing guidance to ensure future protests in London are Covid-secure.
Susan Hall AM called on the Mayor to introduce these measures after social distancing became impossible and thousands broke other lockdown rules at yesterday’s Black Lives Matter demonstration. She warned that London could not risk the return of mass protests until coronavirus had been beaten for good.
To ensure that protests in London are Covid-secure, she is calling for the Mayor to:
Discourage Londoners from attending protests en masse to prevent unmanageable numbers descending onto London’s streets and public transport network.
Publish guidance on how Londoners can safely protest while respecting lockdown rules, which could include: advising all protesters to wear face masks and gloves, carry hand-sanitiser, avoid public transport, and only meet in large open spaces.
Require protest organisers to provide face masks, gloves, and hand-sanitiser stations to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The Leader of the City Hall Tories warned Sadiq Khan not to be afraid of discouraging large protests as it’s his responsibility as Mayor to focus on beating the virus and saving lives.
Susan Hall AM, Leader of GLA Conservatives, commented: “Sadiq Khan has a terrible record regarding the handling of protests. The Mayor has a habit of forgetting that he’s responsible for keeping Londoners safe when he should be ensuring that protests are safe, legal, and non-disruptive.
“Yesterday’s Black Lives Matter demonstration made it clear that mass protests must be a thing of the past until coronavirus is beaten. Currently, it’s simply not possible for thousands of people to demonstrate on London’s streets safely. The Mayor must start telling people to stop attending large marches to prevent protests in London from becoming superspreading events for coronavirus. In this pandemic era, people should find new ways to protest without jeopardising our city’s efforts to control the virus.
“People have the right to protest in a lawful, peaceful, and non-disruptive way, but in this crisis, it must also be Covid-secure. That means protests should be smaller with clear advice on how to keep yourself and others safe.
“It was heartening that many protesters on the Black Lives Matter demonstration wore facemasks and that organisers provided protective equipment, however, some protesters did not take protective measures and others disobeyed the lockdown rules completely. The Mayor must publish guidance for Londoners on how to protest safely while respecting lockdown rules. He must also require all organisers in the future to provide face masks, gloves, and hand-sanitiser stations to help prevent protests from spreading the virus.
“It’s understandable that many Londoners have taken to the streets after the terrible death of George Floyd by law enforcement in the USA, but we need to find a safe way for people to voice their anger. If we don’t, then we risk allowing protests to wreck the progress our city has made in controlling the virus.
“The violence at yesterday’s protest was disgraceful. In no way does throwing objects or punches at officers in London – who bravely protect our city and who are committed to rooting out racism – solve problems here or in the USA. We must have zero tolerance on anyone who assaults London’s brave police officers.”