Missed this one…

We hold the view that if we’re going to comment on local protests, it does help if we actually attend them and talk to people so we can get the full picture of what happened and why. Because we’ve been heavily involved in below the radar solidarity work in Thurrock over the last week plus a few other issues we’ve had to deal with, the anti-lockdown protest that took place in Basildon yesterday (Saturday 21 November) passed us by. This is how it was covered by Essex Live: Anti-lockdown protesters’ branded ‘idiotic’ by Basildon Council leader as police make arrests and by the Echo: Basildon anti-mask protesters gather in the town centre.

The standard procedure in mobilising for anti-lockdown protests is to announce the assembly point on the day in a bid to fend off unwanted attention from the cops. It would seem that Essex plod were on the ball with their advance intelligence because a dispersal order was put in ahead of the protest. From the footage we saw, it would appear that there were a lot of cops brought in to try and stop the protestors from marching through residential streets with a few scuffles and arrests. Watching the footage, we couldn’t help thinking that this was one of the larger concentrations of Essex plod on the streets of Basildon since the bastards took out Dale Farm in 2011.

As mentioned, we weren’t at the protest so it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment on what actually happened. We have already been contacted by someone who has questioned whether the protest was something ‘organic’ to the town or just an outside ‘rent a mob’. We would like to talk to people who were on the protest to hear their side of the story. Obviously, if we use any material from people attending the protest, if they want anonymity, we’ll respect that.

Predictably, the esteemed leader of Basildon Council, Cllr. Gavin Callaghan (Lab) was fuming with indignation. This is one of the comments made by the esteemed leader: “If you’re one of the people “protesting” against the virus today in Basildon town Centre, you really can do one. And please don’t play with sharp objects, unsupervised.” If we’re being totally honest, anything that makes Callaghan fume like this must have something going for it! Also predictable was the lazy journalism from the Echo characterising this as an ‘anti-mask’ protest. It would seem that Callaghan and lazy local ‘journalists’ are happy to misrepresent and dismiss the concerns people have about lockdown and which informed their decision to take to the streets. We published this list of concerns before and we make no apology for doing so again:

  • Elderly people with COVID-19 plus other co-morbidities being shoved out of hospitals into already overstretched care homes with the inevitable tragic consequences.
  • Elderly people in care homes, denied physical contacts with family and friends, going into a rapid mental decline.
  • Many bereaved people unable to give their loved ones a decent send off because of the restrictions on numbers able to attend a funeral.
  • Restrictions on physical contact at funerals where people in the depths of despair need a comforting hug or an arm round the shoulder.
  • People unable to see friends and family for months on end leading to loneliness, depression and despair.
  • The long term impact on people’s mental health of the constant messaging that we are to regard each other as potential threats.
  • The constant messaging that any kind of physical contact – essentially what makes us human – is to be discouraged.
  • The culture of snitching where the public are encouraged to report any breaches of the coronavirus restrictions – classic divide and rule tactics.
  • Legitimate fears about rushed through vaccines where the manufacturers have indemnity from any claims should there be adverse side effects.
  • The acceleration of the trend towards a cashless economy.
  • The need to have a smartphone with the NHS tracking app installed to gain entry to a cafe, restaurant, pub, bar, football ground and many other venues – those that don’t have smartphones are the victims of the digital divide.
  • All of this (and I’m only scratching the surface) driving people into depression and even towards thoughts of suicide because there seems to be no end in sight.

If ‘rent a gob’ Callaghan isn’t willing to constructively engage with these concerns, we suggest that he acts upon his own advice so he “really can do one”. Also if the so called journalist from the Echo can’t be bothered to take on board the concerns listed above when ‘reporting’ on a local lockdown protest that they a) go back to journalism school or b) find another career to pursue.

This maybe our subjective opinion but we get the feeling that a growing number of people are just paying lip service to the lockdown and the tiered restrictions, and don’t buy into the narrative we’re being fed to justify them continuing into 2021. It seems to us that anti-lockdown sentiment is steadily growing. We don’t want to read too much into what happened in Basildon but it does signal a shift to a potentially more volatile climate as lockdown fatigue starts turning to anger. Having said this, we’re also aware of how toxic and divisive this issue is. There are certainly games of divide and rule going on and that does not bode well for the future…

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