The organiser of the Piccadilly Gardens anti-lockdown protest has said he will contest the £10,000 fine police handed him.
Fitness trainer and ‘ex-military veteran’ from Trafford, Paul Boys who organised the protest insists it was not illegal.
The ‘Rise Up Manchester’ rally was attended by as many as 600 people in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens on Sunday afternoon.
GMP fined the 40-year-old man £10,000. 25 £200 fixed penalty notices were also handed out.
Speaking to the MEN, he claimed he had been given the go-ahead by a police liaison office, filled out risk assessment forms and that the event was ‘legitimate’ and not illegal.
In a Facebook post, he wrote: “Images in the press of heavy police presence and reports of fines, arrests and injured officers all took place after the event had finished and organisers had left, and therefore we do not accept any responsibility for this incidences.”
Under the latest lockdown legislation, no more than two people can meet at a time.
Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Mabs Hussain, said: “Ahead of Sunday, officers attempted to engage with the person organising this gathering – warning him of the likely consequences and advising, for his and everyone else’s sake, to abandon his plans.
“However, he decided to ignore this advice and pressed ahead with a reckless and completely irresponsible course of action. He has been left with a significant financial penalty as a result.”
In a YouTube video, Mr Boys said the event was ‘arranged to be a Remembrance parade as well’.
He added that they were told by police the ‘state of the art sound system’ would be seized and £10,000 fines issued.
He then said they ‘adapted’ and used a megaphone to speak from different sites in Manchester instead.
He added: “I said to the police, anything that happens – arrested [sic], fines – I will accept responsibility as organiser,”
“I told the police I would tell everyone that’s turned up… that the rally has been cancelled… therefore it’s over and people can do as they wish.
“I expressed to everybody that I am going for a walk, which is within my legal rights, to be able to go for a walk, on my own.
“If anyone decides to follow me, that’s their own decision. So we went for a walk.
“I was then given a megaphone, which is also within my rights as an individual, who is not part of any group or part of any organised rally. I just decided to go for a walk and speak at different sites.”
Mr Boys explained that people ‘turned up in their own bubbles’ and that he asked them to ‘adhere to social distancing rules’.
He went onto explain that the arrests were made at ‘small gatherings’ which were not affiliated with him.
ACC Hussain said: “Work is ongoing to identify others who were in attendance at the gathering and blatantly breaching Government restrictions.
“Gatherings such as this increase demand on our officers, who are already working tirelessly in difficult circumstances to help protect our communities.
“Government restrictions on social distancing are in place to control the spread of Covid-19.
“We recognise that these are difficult times, but I would implore everyone to think of their loved ones and do your bit to fight the virus, as well as protecting our NHS, by complying with current restrictions during lockdown.”
Manchester’s George Floyd mural has been defaced with racist graffiti once again
The mural of George Floyd in the Northern Quarter has been defaced with racist graffiti once again.
A local councillor took to social media to share the news, slamming the ‘racist cowards’ who vandalised the artwork overnight.
The tribute was created by graffiti artist Akse P19 in Stevenson Square after Mr Floyd’s death sparked protests across the world.
Akse recently had to repaint the mural after it was defaced earlier this month. Around the same time two men were also arrested after filming themselves urinating on the artwork.
Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons, representing Piccadilly ward on Manchester city council, took to Twitter to share the news that once again the mural has been hit by a ‘racist vandal’.
The incident occurred at around 5.30am this morning, with a suspect spotted by CCTV operators before being chased and caught by police.
Mr Lyons took to Twitter to share the news, writing: “Earlier this morning, police officers gave chase to another racist vandal who decided to come in the dead of night to attack the George Floyd memorial.
“The man was spotted on CCTV & was chased by police through the city centre & was caught. Thank you to GMP for their vigilance!”
He added in a later tweet: “These racist vandals all come in the dead of night – they are cowards.
“They know themselves how shameful it is what they are doing, attacking a memorial of a man killed by police brutality, but obviously have to do it in the dead of night. Racist cowards the lot of them.”
Face masks and Covid tests for school kids won’t be ‘compulsory’
The guidance on masks and tests won’t be enforceable
News broke earlier in the week that secondary school students would have to wear face masks and take twice-weekly Covid tests when they return to classrooms from March 8th.
It’s now been confirmed that neither of these measures will be enforceable, with schools told they won’t actually be able to make students wear a mask.
This is despite the government saying that secondary school pupils would need to wear them, both in classrooms and in the corridor.
However, according to the finer details of the ‘operational guidance’ for schools, ‘no pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.’
While before Christmas a lot of secondary school and college students were wearing masks in corridors and communal areas, the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ revealed this was being expanded so kids would have to wear them in classrooms too.
The official document states: “The government also recommends that the use of face coverings in Higher Education, Further Education and secondary schools is extended for a limited period to all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless 2m social distancing can be maintained.
“Face coverings are now also recommended in early years and primary schools for staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible, for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas.
“All children will once again be expected to attend school, as they were in the autumn term.”
The move had divided opinion among parents, with some saying they might keep their kids off school if they’re forced to wear masks, while others said they were in favour of it.
As well as face masks, it’s now been revealed that the twice-weekly Covid tests secondary students were meant to be taking are also ‘not compulsory’.
Education minister Nick Gibb confirmed that testing will be voluntary for pupils, saying that it remains ‘highly recommended’ to do so, however.
Mr Gibb added that it will not be a case of ‘no test, no school’, also clarifying that face masks will not be compulsory in schools, even though the government strongly advises pupils to use them.
He told Good Morning Britain: “No, they’re not compulsory but we highly recommend it, it’s everybody doing everything we can to identify asymptomatic cases of Covid, helping to reduce the transmission.
“The first three tests will be taken in the school that will show the students how to do it most effectively and it’s the students themselves that will do it at home with supervision by their parents.”
The UK’s Covid-19 alert level has been downgraded
‘It is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines’
Following the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed receding, the Covid alert level in the UK has been downgraded.
According to the UK’s chief medical officers, the alert level should move from 5 to 4, Sky News reports.
This is because the numbers of patients in hospital are ‘consistently declining and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded’.
Under Level 5, there was ‘a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed’, while under Level 4 transmission of coronavirus is now ‘high or rising exponentially’ – so there’s still a way to go.
The four UK chief medical officers and NHS England’s national medical director said in a joint statement that they agreed the alert level should be downgraded.
This follows advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, but is also ‘in light of the most recent data’.
They added: “The health services across the four nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital, however thanks to the efforts of public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.
“We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high. In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer.
“However, for the time being, it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
“We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers, we thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic.”