Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has voiced renewed concern about the ban on protests put in place during the current lockdown in England. Speaking in Parliament during a debate on renewed restrictions and under his remit as Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson, Mr Carmichael highlighted the importance of the right to protest even during the pandemic, saying that “we walk away from that at our peril”.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“There is enormous frustration in all parts of the House, the roots of which are to be found in the fact that the Government have lost their way in tackling Covid… I am sure I was not the only Member who looked at the TV screens at the weekend and saw police officers in London enforcing the Home Secretary’s “Rule of Two”. People speak about the cost of the cure being perhaps greater than that of the disease and we tend to think of that in financial terms, but clearly the way in which we have tackled Covid has a cost that goes well beyond that.
“I have little sympathy for those arrested on the streets in London at the weekend. I agree with almost nothing that they say, but it is important that we should be able to support their right to assemble, and to protest peacefully and within the law. We walk away from that at our peril, because these freedoms were hard-won and if we give them up, they will not be easily brought back.”
Speaking afterwards Mr Carmichael added:
“Even in times of crisis, we have to stand up for the values of liberal democracy, including the right to peaceful protest. Even if we disagree with those protesting, limitations on the right to peaceful assembly impact us all and in every part of the UK.”