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PROTESTS have been explicitly exempted from new coronavirus restrictions on gatherings in all three tiers as England leaves the second national lockdown tomorrow.
Human rights groups welcomed the move but raised concerns that misinterpretation of the rules by police forces could still lead to curbs on the right to protest.
The new tier rules come into force today with end of the second England-wide lockdown.
The regulations give greater clarity on public demonstrations, explicitly stating that they can take place provided that they are organised by a “business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body or a political body.”
Organisers must also take the “required precautions” to ensure social distancing and safety.
Responding to the new regulations, which were approved by MPs yesterday, campaign group Liberty said that the right to protest “should never have been in doubt.”
Protections for protesters were put in jeopardy early last month when a second lockdown was imposed across England.
The move was widely condemned by civil liberties groups.
While the regulations did not explicitly ban demonstrations, human rights groups said that police were “increasingly treating protests as banned” and accused forces of “misinterpreting the law.”
Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo welcomed the right to protest being explicitly included in the new tier regulations.
“However, the exemptions for protests were also in the lockdown regulations we're just coming out of,” she said.
“This was misrepresented by the police, who falsely told the public they had no right to protest on the weekend [when anti-lockdown demonstrators gathered in London].
“We must not slide into a police state where police make up the rules as they go along, especially on such a precious and fundamental right as the right to protest.”
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