Monitoring civil liberties in the lockdown

We are experiencing the most overwhelming restriction on civil liberties that has ever occurred in peacetime. This is an exceptional situation, but the use of state power still needs to be checked and scrutinised. The Manifesto Club is collaborating with the Freedom Law Clinic to monitor the overzealous or unreasonable enforcement of coronavirus regulations. We will be running online seminars for law students and producing a briefing document. If you have experienced unreasonable police enforcement, or have an incident to report, please do get in touch.  

Why shouldn’t people sunbathe?

Brockwell Park in London was closed after what Lambeth council called ‘unacceptable behaviour’ by residents at the weekend. The problem, said the council, was ‘sunbathing’, which went against the ‘clear advice’ from the government about the ‘essential reasons’ for which you may leave your home. The sunbathers came in for much flack on social media, where they were called ‘selfish idiots’ (and worse), who are risking lives and killing others. Sunbathers in #BrockwellPark about to get catch! Exercise🏃🏾‍♂️🏃🏾‍♀️🏋️‍♀️🚴🏻‍♀️ or #StayHomeSaveLives #Lambeth #Brixton pic.twitter.com/W8aZvUNAm7 — Juanne Fuller (@SouthActonGirl) April 4, 2020 But really? As one tweeter pointed out, the 3000 people in Brockwell…

Police should not be allowed to suspend quality of life

There are a worrying number of examples of the police going out of their way to impose needless restrictions upon people, under the guise of the Coronavirus threat. These include – – One man on Facebook reported that police were shouting with megaphones at a couple sitting on a park bench, telling them to move on. They were allowed to walk or run in the park, apparently, but not sit. – Footage of police ordering people off Shepherd’s Bush Green, where they had been lying in scattered pairs or family groups, saying ‘it’s not a holiday, it’s a lockdown’. – Derbyshire Police…

Defending basic rights in lock-down Germany

Guest post by Sabine Beppler, Berlin. The German historian Dr René Schlott has launched an initiative called ‘Grundgesetz a casa’ (constitution at home). He writes: Many of our basic rights as citizens have been severely restricted, and it is frightening to see how fast we can get used to this. Though forced to stay at home, he calls on people to defend their basic rights. ‘Grundgesetz a casa’ hopes that as many people as possible will join the campaign. They can do this by reading out an article from the German constitution (Basic Law), explaining why it must be defended. People who don’t…

State power still needs to be checked in a lockdown

Today we are living with extraordinary restrictions on our liberties. Ordinary freedoms, such as going for a walk in a park or meeting a friend, are no longer possible. The Coronavirus Bill going through parliament gives state agents unprecedented powers to detain and confine individuals, and to prohibit public events and gatherings. Of course, we are facing an urgent public health situation and this means that things cannot carry on as before. And yet it is more imperative than ever that state power and restrictions are targeted, necessary, open to public scrutiny, and not employed for a minute longer than necessary. Because…

A local resident takes on Peterborough’s anti-cycling PSPO

Peterborough introduced a PSPO that restricted cycling; the punishment and issuing of fines was outsourced to a private company. The result was a massive 2430 fines issued in Peterborough in 2018, largely to sensible cyclists. The council recently called a consultation on the renewing of its PSPO. David Jost, a local resident, sent the following response: Earlier this year Peterborough City Council declared ‘climate emergency and resolved to achieve’zero-carbon’ by 2030. Amongst other measures this requires a general switch from carbo-generating motor traffic to walking and cycling whenever and wherever feasible. Thus cycling needs to be given every encouragement. To ban cycling…

The witch-hunt culture in the arts: a personal account

I have worked in the arts for 34 years. I was an immigrant from a working-class background, and the first to gain a degree in my family; both my parents had left school at 14. I have always been interested by ideas, experimentation, and the world of the imagination as expressed through the arts – converging to curate work that asked audiences to question and to open new doors of understanding. I also believed that clashing ideas and traditions could create fresh thinking, looking at the world differently. My politics is an eclectic one, as I moved from Marxist, socialist thought to…

The misuse of dispersal powers against football fans

(Guest blog post by Peter Lloyd). The police have been in trouble before for blocking ‘away’ football fans who are simply going to a match to support their team. In 2010 Greater Manchester Police paid £200,000 to around 80 Stoke City supporters who were incorrectly prevented from going to a game in Manchester and falsely imprisoned by containment, and then escorted out of the city and back to Stoke. Rules were supposedly changed to prevent this happening again but it looks like the problem has not gone away. Three years ago Wrexham fans successfully sued Humberside Police in a similar case. So furious…

Manchester Council abortion clinic PSPO: Manifesto Club response

Manchester City Council is proposing a PSPO outside a Marie Stopes abortion clinic, which will include a prohibition on ‘protest, namely engage in any act of approval / disapproval or attempted act of approval / disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services by any means. This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling.’ While the Manifesto Club wholeheartedly supports women’s right to access abortion services without harassment or obstruction, we have grave concerns about the broad nature of this order and its impact upon freedom of speech. Here is our response below to…

Why we need informal events

(A guest post by James Woudhuysen). Why are music festivals now so popular? Where are they headed? Music festivals are part of a wider trend for people to find value in live entertainments that are not mass-produced or tightly structured like a Premier League match or a stadium concert. Today’s popular quest for authenticity bodes well for such informal events. In balloon launches or a pop-up Japanese cultural festival in Leeds, people now gain not just recreation or relief from the virtual world of screens, but also a real and tangible chance to find meaning and social solidarity. Yet informal events face…

The red tape that stopped me from volunteering to sit with the dying

(A guest post by Linda Hughes) Every now and then, the whole country is seized with a moral panic. Common sense and logic fly out of the window. Following the Soham murders of two 10-year olds in 2002, paedophile school caretaker Ian Huntley was found guilty of their murders and jailed for 40 years. The tabloid press went to town. In the prevailing climate of moral panic, the government asked civil servant Michael Bichard to report and make recommendations about child protection. Bichard recommended the setting up of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The Bichard Report was published on 22 June 2004 and made…