At least 30,000 demonstrators marched through central London on Saturday to call for an end to lockdown.
The “Freedom Day” march demanded an immediate end to all Covid-19 restrictions.
Protesters gathered initially at Marble Arch and then marched to Downing Street where they flung tennis balls with messages written on them towards Boris Johnson’s residence.
It was shot through with contradictory messages, but underscored the emptiness at the heart of parliamentary politics.
Present were supporters of Donald Trump and the far right, and others from fascist and racist groups.
These people were among a section who abused protesters at the People’s Assembly and Trans+ Pride demonstrations also held on Saturday in central London.
However, it was not a far right demonstration. And it did not feel like the early days of the Football Lads Alliance that was quickly revealed to be a vehicle for the fascists.
Some present accept the hugely dangerous argument that Covid-19 is a myth, or that at least it is being grossly overemphasised.
Another grouping has swallowed fake anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that also tend towards beliefs of a secret elite running the word.
Stickers, banners and T-shirts worn by protesters alluded to QAnon and other antisemitic conspiracy theories.
But one large element present were people who have been hit hard by the lockdown and the lack of economic support. These included workers and small business owners.
And there were also quite a lot of young people who are frustrated by the months of lockdown and police crackdowns on raves.
Shirley, who is a librarian, said, “I’d rather be doing something else with my weekend but I’m going to keep coming on these protests because I don’t trust what the government is doing.
“I don’t believe in wearing masks and I don’t believe in the vaccine, especially given my Caribbean heritage and the history of slavery.
“There’s a huge mix of people here, yet what they’re saying is being ignored.”
There was also lots of anger over the hypocrisy of the Tories who insist everyone else obeys Covid-19 rules but then ignore them themselves.
And there were calls to “arrest Matt Hancock”.
None of this makes it in any way a progressive movement—far from it. Its direction is rightwards.
Such demonstrations have emerged at a time of deep economic and social crisis when many people’s lives are turned upside down.
It is easier for right wing ideas to spread because there is so little opposition from the Labour Party and the trade union leaders.
The anger against Johnson therefore finds other outlets.
It was clear from Saturday that the left needs to stay vigilant about anti-lockdown protests.
And it is vital that the left should be the loudest voice in the fight against the Tories.
Thousands of protesters, angry with the government’s abandonment of the entertainment industry, danced in front of a sound system in central London on Sunday.
The Save Our Scene group wrote on Instagram, “We are demanding that the government ends all restrictions on the hospitality sector without any further delay.
“We can’t stay silent anymore.” This group made the choice not to join the Freedom March on Saturday.
But regulations based on science are still necessary. Instead of demanding the immediate end to regulations, the call should be for proper economic support for everyone hit by closures.
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