Campaigners call on Drakeford to lift Covid protest ban
Campaigners have written to First Minister Mark Drakeford asking him to lift a Covid-19 ban on protesting in Wales.
The UK Government lifted Covid-19 restrictions against protests in England on Monday as long as organisers obey public health guidelines.
Community groups and trade unionists want the Welsh Government to follow suit.
The call came ahead of predicted protests this weekend against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which, as policing is not devolved, will also impact Wales.
Under the current Welsh Government Covid-19 restrictions, those taking part in these protests could be liable to fines.
The letter said that Black Lives Matter protester was fined £500 by the police for attending community protests for police accountability after the death of Mohamud Hassan.
Welsh community groups signing the letter include People’s Assembly Wales, Cardiff and Vale Momentum, Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, Save the Northern Meadows and ACORN Renters Union.
Plaid Cymru Senedd Member Bethan Sayed and trade unionists Marianne Owens, Chair of PCS Wales and Mairead Canavan National Education Union Executive member for Wales are also signatories.
They said that protests against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on Sunday would take place at 2 pm at the stone circle, Bute Park, Cardiff and 1 pm at the Clock Tower in Aberystwyth.
Adam Johannes from People’s Assembly Wales who initiated the letter said that they backed public health measures, but should be allowed to protest.
“The Welsh Government banning public protest outright though is a step too far,” he said.
“With living standards under attack, mass job cuts, civil liberties threatened, illegal evictions happening, rising racism and many other social problems, people may feel they have little choice but to take to the streets.
“They should not be criminalised. Rather we should aim to make the protests as Covid-safe as possible”
Campaigners also argue that there is little evidence that outdoor protests that are masked and socially distanced are a significant factor in the spread of the virus.
A spokesperson from the Cardiff and Vale branch of Labour group Momentum said protests would be more organised if they were legalised and the public health guidelines made clear.
“Uncertainty over a protest’s legal status makes it much harder to make sure that everyone does social distance, because you can’t organise,” they said.
“If it could be organised it would be a safer event.”