Can I attend a protest during the coronavirus lockdown? / Coronavirus / Protest
Can I attend a protest during the Coronavirus Pandemic?
This information below was correct as of 19 July 2021, but is subject to possible changes.
This page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.
As of 19 July 2021, there are no restrictions on how many people can meet either indoors or outdoors. This means that protests can take place without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements.
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.
Whilst protests of more than 30 people were permitted under the old regulations, the latest change in regulations means that organisers no longer have to fulfil the specific requirements in terms of risk assessments and precautions.
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 gather 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 like police forces have to act in a way that doesn’t breach your rights. They must also take certain steps to help peaceful protests.
However, these rights are “qualified” rights, meaning the Government is allowed to restrict them if it is proportionate and in the public interest.
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 allowed to film the police.
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.
The only exception to filming the police is where the police believe the filming would be used for the purposes 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.
What are my rights on this?
Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them
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