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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Policing plan in place for potential protest in Bristol

We’re aware a protest may take place in Bristol tomorrow morning and are warning anyone thinking of attending they will be breaking the law.

Current coronavirus regulations prohibit gatherings of more than two people and while there are certain exemptions, protests are not allowed.

An event was originally due take place outside Bristol Magistrates’ Court but organisers are now encouraging people to join an online protest instead due to the pandemic.

We appreciate the efforts made to discourage people from attending in person however we’re concerned people may still choose to turn up.

By law, anyone organising or facilitating a gathering of more than 30 people is liable to a fixed penalty notice of £10,000 while those participating in a gathering of more than two people can be fined £200.

Inspector Rob Cheeseman said: “We fully recognise the important right to freedom of expression and right to assemble but there is a deadly virus which has killed more than 90,000 people in the UK which simply cannot be ignored.

“There are more people in hospital with the virus than at any time during this pandemic and the NHS is at risk of falling over if people don’t follow the regulations.

“There is no excuse for not knowing the rules as they are very clear and have been very well publicised – people must stay home except for in a very limited set of circumstances.

“Unlike during the first lockdown protests aren’t currently allowed and anyone thinking of flouting the rules and attending a protest is putting others at risk.

“We remain hopeful people will heed our warning and choose to express themselves online rather than in person but as with all events of this nature we have a comprehensive policing plan should people gather.

“Officers continue to take the same approach to policing the regulations as they have done throughout this health crisis and look to encourage people to go home in the first instance. However, should anyone fail to disperse they will not hesitate to tack enforcement action which could mean people receive a fine or get arrested.

“We will not stand by and allow a small minority to endanger the health of the vast majority who have sacrificed so much to protect others.”