It's the government endangering people's lives, not protesters, argues Shabbir Lakha
There is inevitably a higher risk of the virus spreading at a protest where social distancing is impossible, like the one in London yesterday. But I think there are two important points to make:
The first is that it is Boris who ended the lockdown, not protesters. Research has shown that the quickest method of transmission of the virus is sharing air in a confined space for prolonged periods of time.
So protest or no protest, it is still the forcing of people to get on packed out rush hour tubes, and work in offices or schools or retail, or hospitals, care homes or on buses and trains without proper PPE that is the primary reason why infections are again on the rise.
Secondly, for black people, racism didn’t pause for the virus. BAME people have been fined and arrested disproportionately during the lockdown, the structural racism they face has meant they have died disproportionately from the virus.
You can’t choose the conditions under which anger like this explodes. The protests should be supported and defended unconditionally. But that also doesn’t undermine opposing the government lifting the lockdown.
What we should do (which is already generally happening):
- Encourage people to go to the protests only if they’re low-risk and don’t live with vulnerable people. To wear masks and gloves if they do and wherever possible to socially distance.
- Help organise properly socially distanced protests in local areas with smaller numbers of people, and help organise online events that people can use to participate without going to the protests.
- Defend the protests from the cynical attempts to blame them for a rise in infections and vice versa reject those cynically supporting the protests only as a means to argue against the lockdown
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Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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