CHARLES GRAHAM: Mass race protests could have fatal consequences

I have probably written the word “dismay” - or derivatives thereof - more this year than in any other in my career.
Demonstrators pack into Manchester city centreDemonstrators pack into Manchester city centre
Demonstrators pack into Manchester city centre

It was with colossal amounts of it that I watched the coronavirus pandemic and policies to deal with it bring so much of the world and our beloved institutions to their knees, separating us from loved ones, taking thousands of lives and putting countless more on the dole.

There was further dismay at those who flouted the regulations aimed at putting this disease in retreat by congregating in large numbers in parks and on beaches.

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And it could be similarly applied to my feelings about the Teflon Downing Street political adviser Dominic Cummings after his bizarre trek from London to County Durham in direct contravention of edicts that he possibly helped to put into plain English for the PM.

In other matters, I’ve been dismayed at the lack of breakthroughs in Brexit negotiations, superpowers’ increasingly provocative and antagonistic behaviour, and the sickening death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The last of these brought back horrible feelings of deja vu, not least the brutal beating in 1991 - again caught on camera - of construction worker Rodney King by officers from the Los Angeles police department.

That prompted widespread and understandable race riots which, sad to say if this latest tragedy is proved to be police murder, seem to have achieved little in lancing the boil of institutional racism.

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Anyone who thinks that racism does not exist in this country or the US (anymore) really must live in a bubble. And the frustration in the UK that previous calls for measures to tackle prejudice have fallen on deaf ears is great.

But here is where I use the D word again. And that is at the massed gatherings which took place in several of our cities in reaction to Mr Floyd’s death.

It is true that in this free land of ours, people should always have a right to protest. But in the middle of a killer pandemic, congregating in thousands is absolutely not the way to go about it.

Anyone who has lambasted those beach and park-goers and demanded the head of Cummings and then attended or condoned the protests are hypocrites. I know the differences between backing just causes and going on boredom-relieving jaunts, but Covid-19 doesn’t discrminate between them.

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Meanwhile - with terribly irony - what it does discriminate against is people of black and minority ethnic (Bame) backgrounds.

Only this week we revealed that more than half of pregnant women in hospital with coronavirus are Bame - a shocking statistic in itself when 80 per cent of the population is white.

And it is the Bame community which will suffer the most if these gatherings bring about a new surge in cases and deaths while almost all of us suffer the new economic penalties that a resultant further tightening of lockdown would bring.

The figures have been going down, but we’ve already heard a number of emininent scientists say that the easing of our lockdown has come too soon (after also saying it arrived too late).

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And with an R rate higher in the North West than any other area of the UK, a new spike - just as unnecessary as the one caused by the Government’s foolishly letting the Cheltenham Festival go ahead and 3,000 Seville fans fly into Liverpool from locked-down Spain early on in the pandemic - could result from the Manchester demonstration.

At the moment, avoiding another catastrophic wave of fatalities takes precedence over all.

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