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LONDON’S Metropolitan Police force was accused today of continuing to mislead the public over their right to protest under Covid-19 regulations.
The Met has been criticised for posting a message on social media warning demonstrators in Parliament Square on Monday that gatherings of over 30 people are illegal under current guidelines.
Civil liberties groups said this interpretation of the guidelines is wrong, as protests attended by over 30 people are allowed under an exemption to restrictions on gatherings.
Police forces across the country have been widely criticised during the Covid crisis for misusing emergency powers to crack down on protest.
Rights groups and lawyers have highlighted that even without an explicit exemption, protest cannot be banned under the guidance because it is overridden by human rights legislation that enshrines the right to protest.
The issue came to national attention in March when Met officers forcibly dispersed mourners attending a vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, claiming the gathering violated Covid restrictions.
Big Brother Watch warned that excessive powers under emergency Covid-19 regulations have become “arbitrary tools for authoritarianism.”
The group’s Madeleine Stone said: “Police forces across the country have consistently misrepresented Covid rules and regulations, leading to unprecedented numbers of unlawful fines and prosecutions.
“It is staggering that the Met Police continue to mislead the public about their right to protest.
“This is policing untethered from the law, and it poses a grave threat to our rights and our democracy.”
The Met said protest organisers must comply with the current legal restrictions on protest gatherings, which include carrying out a risk assessment.
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