Covid and the targeting of free social life

Few scenes embodied the current approach to coronavirus more than images of squadrons of police officers patrolling Hyde Park. They marched in groups of more than 20, closely packed together. Every time they came across a loose-knit group of 4 or 5 people they told them that they ‘must go home’, and that it is against the law to gather in groups of more than 2.

Police officers’ own gathering – and their moving from person person, arresting people and wrestling them to the ground, then placing them in a packed police van without a mask – was somehow not seen as a threat to public health. Only the public was a threat to public health. People chatting to one another from a distance was seen as dangerous – yet four officers sitting upon a young woman was apparently a means of making the public safe.

It is only the free social relation that is seen as risky, and that is regulated. The act of state repression – even if it involves close human contact – is seen as risk free and as ensuring public safety.

This shows that it is not about viral transmission per se but about the takeover of free social life by the state.

A similar scene came in Scotland when police officers broke into a family home, on suspicion they had visitors. There were no visitors but a gathering of police officers assaulted the members of the household, while their epileptic daughter lay on the floor having a fit.

This is reminiscent of a previous video during the first lockdown of a man having his door kicked down by police, on suspicion that he had a gathering.

The informal gathering is seen as risky – yet the invasion of your home, your manhandling at close quarters, is seen as the enforcement of safety and public health.

Either the police do not think they can get coronavirus or this is not actually about coronavirus. Instead, we are seeing an unleashing of a long-standing official hostility towards free social life – all in the name of our own protection.