Thursday, September 23

Anti-vaccine passport protesters storm Westfield shopping center in London | Protest


Hundreds of anti-vaccine passport protesters stormed the Westfield shopping center in Shepherd’s Bush on Saturday night at the culmination of a massive march that drew thousands of people and traveled miles through central and west London.

There were fights with the police who tried to block access through an entrance to the mall around 6 p.m., before protesters quickly realized that another door a few meters away was unguarded.

Hundreds of people arrived at the mall where they stayed for about half an hour chanting “no more confinements” and “regain your freedom” before the police cleared them with unsheathed truncheons, although without scenes of violence.

A video shared with The Guardian showed Piers Corbyn, the anti-blockade protest figure, addressing the crowd inside the mall through a megaphone. He said: “We are here as free people, dedicating our time to communicate, to prepare for the summer of discontent, where we are going to organize in each community to avoid more closures. No more confinements! “

Etienne Finzetto, who works in Westfield, said the entire mall was later cordoned off and emptied by police. He said he and his colleagues initially thought a celebrity was visiting.

“Staff were told to close shops while escorting customers and the rest of the protesters,” Finzetto told The Guardian in a WhatsApp message. “Westfield finally texted staff to tell them they were closing, most stores (normally open until 9pm) [were] closed for the day “.

The Westfield invasion came after a massive march of some 12 miles through London, beginning in Parliament Square and reaching as far west as Acton. At its peak, there seemed to be hundreds of thousands of people participating.

The route of the march was not disclosed before it began. Activists at the front led the crowd through a series of colored smoke signals. In posts on Telegram channels in the days leading up to the protest, the organizers had promised to take the demonstration “to community areas that we had not attacked before,” in an attempt to counter what they see as a media blackout in their movement.

Saturday’s was the latest in a series of protests against government measures against the coronavirus in recent weeks that have drawn large numbers of people. Protesters who spoke to The Guardian said they had joined the protest because they believed that the actions the government had taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic were causing more harm than good.

One protester, who gave his name only as Paul from Bedfordshire, said he was participating because he was afraid of where the unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties would lead under the guise of fighting the pandemic.

“I am afraid of our freedoms, of our choice of whether we want to be vaccinated or not,” he said. “A lot of people legitimately have no faith in him.”

The focus of dissent against government measures against the coronavirus has evolved since the first protests against the blockade began last summer. Louise Creffield, founder of Save Our Rights UK, one of the groups behind the protest, told The Guardian that the focus of Saturday’s protest was medical freedom.

She said: “We are very concerned about the tracking and tracing of vaccine passports and the increase in mandatory testing.

“We are campaigning for a bill on medical freedom that would avoid any coercion and discrimination for not participating in a medical procedure, because where there is that there can be no fair and informed consent.

“Once we lose our medical freedom, it cannot be said if we will regain it, when and where this slippery slope could take us.”

Metropolitan police said they had been monitoring three protests in London on Saturday. The force was only able to give arrest figures that included all of them.

A police spokesman said: “As of 21:45 on Saturday 29 May, four arrests had been made during various protests in London. Four men were arrested on suspicion of crimes that include assault on the police, violent disorder and criminal damages ”.


www.theguardian.com

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