Make Your Mind Up! Now UK Wants to Arrest People For Wearing a Mask

Make Your Mind Up! Now UK Wants to Arrest People For Wearing a Mask

Just two years after the government finally ended all mask mandates in the United Kingdom it is introducing new laws to outlaw the wearing of masks, specifically during protests, as the state adjusts to face the intense pace of anti-Israel, pro-Palestine demonstrations.

Protesters who wear masks could expect to face jail time and a fine, Home Secretary James Cleverly has said, under new measures, he is adding to the Criminal Justice Bill presently moving through parliament. As noted by the Daily Telegraph police already have powers to demand those at protests remove their masks under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. The new law would give further powers to arrest those who refuse to comply.

Those arrested would face a month in prison and a £1,000 fine. The proposed change comes after months of Palestine protests, which have soared in frequency and scope since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, where a combination of face masks and police disinclination to arrest troublemakers on the spot has left officers unable to track down those making illegal antisemitic statements after the fact.

As well as banning “using face coverings to conceal your identity during certain protests”, Cleverly said he also wanted to ban “climbing on war memorials at protests” and “possessing flares or pyrotechnics at protests”.

In a message on Thursday, he said: “[Scenes of chaos have] become all too familiar… we are banning climbing on war memorials. We should honour those whose service enables us to live freely, and whose sacrifice has protected the very right to protest itself…. The right to protest is fundamental to democracy but this does not extend to disrupting the lives of hard-working people. We’re updating the law and we’re keeping people safe.”

The Evening Standard reports police chiefs had previously claimed face coverings were being used to “avoid criminal convictions” and under Cleverly’s plan, protesters would also not be able to appeal to the right to freedom to protest to get away with damages and disruption. The Guardian notes the law is also a response to the destruction of a statue in Bristol, England, where four protesters were cleared of criminal damage by arguing they have been exercising their freedom to expression themselves through the act.

The move to criminalise the wearing of masks and punish those who refuse to remove them with a fine and jail time comes just barely two years after the mask mandate ended, when the government punished people for not putting masks on. Boris Johnson’s ‘Plan B’ mask mandates ended in January 2022, although the requirement lingered on with Sadiq Khan’s Transport for London until February.

The mask mandates were no hollow threat. Figures stated after the lockdown ended that 3,996 people had been fined £200 each for not wearing a mask on public transport in London during the Coronavirus era, and a further 2,325 were ordered to get off trains and busses for refusing to put one on. In one case, a man was surrounded by five police officers after being seen not wearing a mask on a train, and was later fined £10,000 for refusing to pay the initial £200 charge.

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[By: Oliver JJ Lane

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