Can I attend a protest during the coronavirus pandemic? / Coronavirus / Protest
Can I attend a protest during the Coronavirus Pandemic?
This information below was correct as of 9 May 2022, but is subject to possible changes. We are in the process of preparing informational materials on the legal implications of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
This page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.
As of 19 July 2021, there are no legal restrictions on gathering indoors or outdoors. The previous ban on gatherings of more than 30 people outdoors, and the protest exemption, therefore no longer apply. If you are organising a protest or participating in one, there are no legally enforceable coronavirus-related restrictions.
The legal requirement to wear a face covering has also been lifted in all settings. This means that if you attend a protest you do not legally have to wear a face mask. However, government guidance advises that in order to reduce the risk of transmission face masks should still be worn in crowded spaces.
Although organisers are no longer required to carry out a coronavirus risk assessment, if you are organising a protest it is important to remember that the other measures which applied to protests before coronavirus still need to be followed. For more information on this, see our “How do I organise a protest” page.
Was the restriction of certain gatherings a breach of my human rights?
Your right to protest is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in two ways:
Article 10 protects freedom of expression.
Article 11 protects freedom of assembly and association.
This means that public authorities (including the police) must act in a way that doesn’t breach your rights. The police are also legally obliged to facilitate peaceful protests.
However, these rights are “qualified” rights, which means the Government is allowed to restrict them if it is for certain ‘legitimate aims’ (including the protection of public health) and proportionate (no less restrictive measures available).
The coronavirus regulations (formally known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021) were passed as emergency laws which allowed for a restriction on our right to protest in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Liberty has always been clear that the right to protest is vitally important and, even under the “qualified” allowances in the ECHR, must be allowed to proceed rather than being disproportionately stifled by bureaucracy.
What if the police officer tells me I am breaking coronavirus regulations?
As of 19 July 2021, there are no longer any legal restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting. Large events, such as protests, can take place without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements. This means that you do not break any coronavirus regulations by organising or attending a protest.
If an officer claims that you are in breach of coronavirus regulations for attending a protest, you can make a complaint. You should keep a note of what was said and the shoulder number of the officer.
If an officer tries to arrest, fine or otherwise punish you under coronavirus rules which are no longer in place, then this is unlawful. You may want to contact a lawyer to bring a claim against the police for their actions.
Can I film the police?
Yes, you are legally allowed to film the police. The only exception is where the filming is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” (Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000). However, the police’s own Guidelines say this should not be used during normal policing activities, including protests.
However, be aware that sharing pictures and videos on social media may not be advisable, as it may prevent them from being used as key evidence in a criminal trial. This is a good rule to follow whether you are a protester or Legal Observer.
What are my rights on this?
Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them
Did you find this content useful?
Help us make our content even better by letting us know whether you found this page useful or not