Police chiefs appeal for people to stay away from protests and mass gatherings
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Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey, head of special operations and public order at Greater Manchester Police, and Bev Hughes, deputy mayor for policing, crime and criminal justice, have spoken out after more than 600 people took part in a protest against coronavirus rules in Manchester city centre last weekend.
They want people to stick to the rules imposed by the second national lockdown, to help reduce infection rates and allow police officers to focus on other issues.
Mr Bailey said: "Following the events over the weekend which saw more than 600 people gather at Piccadilly Gardens, I want to appeal to anyone who may be considering organising or attending illegal mass gatherings and protests to reconsider, and to think about the impact these events are having on our communities, on our health service and the ability of police to keep the public safe.
"We are all familiar with the risks the coronavirus presents, and the gatherings we have seen to protest are against Covid legislation, and risk spreading the virus and prolonging the restrictions placed on our region. Since Thursday, November 5, the legislation has changed and protests are no longer exempt from these restrictions. This now means that whilst we are in lockdown, any gatherings of more than two people outside who don't live together are illegal and police are obligated to disperse these gatherings. Whilst we will continue to engage with individuals, explain restrictions and encourage compliance before enforcing, people must take responsibility for their actions, and where gatherings or protests take place we are obliged to take action through dispersal and the imposing of fines to attendees and organisers.
"Greater Manchester Police has a long history of facilitating safe protest and respecting people's rights to protest, but we are currently in a very different position, and whilst Greater Manchester suffers through the pandemic our top priority is to keep the public safe. Therefore we simply cannot sit back and allow these gatherings to take place.
"We all want to come out of the health crisis with a clear conscience knowing we did everything we could to stop the spread of the virus. So I am today asking the public to do their bit during the lockdown, allow us to use our resources where it is most needed, and reduce the demand on our health service by staying away from protests and other large gatherings."
Ms Hughes said: “I want to appeal to the people of Greater Manchester to stop large public gatherings during lockdown. Not only do they present a significant risk to public health but they take police officers away from what they should be doing, which is serving the public in their local areas.
“While protests themselves are not banned, the Covid regulations must take precedence to protect the health of our city-region’s communities. That makes it illegal for more than two people to gather together if you are not from the same household. Our rates of infection, though falling slightly, are still much higher than in other parts of the country. We must continue to abide by the regulations because we know that if we stick to them we will see a reduction, and at a faster pace.”
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