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After a year of economic struggles, Italians are tired of suffering

As the first country after China to be infected, Italy has endured the pandemic’s emotional and economic hardships the longest, and the hardest. As of 1:28 pm (17:28 GMT) on May 5, 2021, the country has confirmed 4,070,400 cases and suffered 122,005 deaths. The first nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 9, 2020, and as cases exceeded 12,000, all bars, restaurants, and other nonessential businesses closed their doors. Since then, the country experienced eased restrictions during the summer as many regions became orange or yellow zones (medium to moderate risk). But once Christmas rolled around, former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte again imposed internal travel restrictions, curfews, and quarantine measures that lasted from December 4 to January 15

As the country passed its one-year anniversary of the initial lockdowns last month, restaurants and other nonessential businesses were again shut down nationwide for Easter. When it was announced that it would be extended for the whole month of April due to rising cases, suffering business owners took to the streets. 

For two consecutive weeks on April 6 and April 12, protestors clashed with police in front of the Palazzo Montecitorio in Rome, demanding that Parliament ease restrictions and allow businesses to reopen. Signs reading “Io Apro” (“I Open”) rippled over the crowds (open restaurants COVID-free). Many marched toward the Prime Minister’s office, chanting “Freedom!” and “Libertà!”, but were stopped by police. According to Italian news source ANSA, far-right group Casa Pound joined the crowd in the same way they did in the first week of demonstrations. That’s where things got violent. 

Smoke flares, stones, and other objects were hurled at police as they tried to restrain the crowd. The last time Casa Pound infiltrated a demonstration, it ended with the arrest of seven protesters and an injured police officer who was taken to the hospital. Many who protest extended lockdowns fear that the government will have too much control and that it is up to the people to take the economy into their own hands. 

[Image description: Protesters clash with police in Rome on April 6, 2021.] Via U.S. News & World Report
[Image description: Protesters clash with police in Rome on April 6, 2021.] Via U.S. News & World Report
What is Casa Pound?

Casa Pound, who takes its name from Mussolini-supporter and poet Ezra Pound, is Italy’s far-right militant group closely tied with the neo-fascist political party, Forza Nuova. Casa Pound openly glorifies the policies of fascists dictators and communists Che Guevara and Karl Marx (which doesn’t make sense, if you think about it: a fascist group supporting famous communists?). 

Founded in 1997, Forza Nuova’s policies are anti-gay, anti-immigration, nationalist, and ultra-conservative. The party’s controversial, hate-speech signs and billboards shocked many across the country, and to this day, the group has low support nationwide but is very loud. 

What is the political situation in Italy?

The violent protests in Rome, not the first demonstrations since Italy’s series of lockdowns, reflect the country’s political turmoil as a result of the pandemic. In January, Giuseppe Conte handed President Sergio Mattarella his resignation after the small party Italia Viva withdrew support from Conte’s coalition in Parliament. The withdrawal resulted from disputed COVID relief funds and left Conte’s coalition in the minority. 

Many saw this as the beginning of the end for Conte. Wolfgang Piccoli, co-president of consultancy firm Teneo, said in a note obtained by CNBC that Conte resigned “to ensure his own political survival.”

Conte ended up surviving: he won the confidence vote in the Senate. However, he stood firm in his decision to resign so he could take the helm in rebuilding the collapsed 5 Star Movement

What does this have to do with lockdown protests?

Despite receiving approval ratings as high as nearly 60% during his leadership, Conte’s resignation could not have come at a worse time. The after-effects of political turmoil, followed by the economic frustration of a devastating pandemic, manifested in fed-up people on the streets of the capital. 

Fortunately, the new Prime Minister Mario Draghi, former President of the European Central Bank, eased the restrictions on April 26, bringing back yellow zones so nonessential businesses could resume operations and restaurants could welcome diners alla fresca. This is earlier than the prediction made by Health Minister Roberto Sperneza, who had previously told ANSA that he saw restrictions being eased as late as May.  

At last, there seems to be cause for hope. Is this a result of the protests? 

Of course, with eased restrictions comes the stringent monitoring of mask compliance and social distancing, but as a country whose economy diminished by 9% in 2020, it will certainly be worth it. The downside to this is that not every business owner can adapt to lockdown restrictions so easily, nor can they bounce back from money lost. 

“I had to spend €10,000 to adapt the pizzeria so that it was in accord with virus safety precautions, then the government made us close down,” pizzeria owner Ermes Ferrari told the Corriere della Sera newspaper, obtained by VOA News. “It’s shameful. I have no more money left. My employees don’t have money to eat.”

Leaders make their political maneuvers while frustration only builds. While the tension may ease due to Draghi’s positive news about the lockdown, Italians are getting whiplash from the constant shutdowns, reopenings, and more shutdowns. For that matter, much of Italy’s population has yet to be vaccinated. Unlike the U.S. and the U.K., vaccine rollouts in Italy and the rest of the EU have crept at a snail’s pace. In fact, supplies are so lacking that the European Commission is suing pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over failing to provide the number of doses the EU contracted them to deliver (despite a clause in their contract stating they can’t be sued over delayed deliveries). 

Tensions between the company and the EU have been going on since June when the EU sent a formal notice to AstraZeneca after it didn’t deliver 90 million doses. By the end of the year’s second quarter, the company is projected to deliver approximately 70 million doses, when it was contracted by the EU to deliver 300 million. The lawsuit has not been supported by all members of the EU, such as Germany and France, for a variety of reasons. One of them is that there is no guarantee that AstraZeneca will deliver more doses just because they are sued. Another reason is that once sued, the company’s image will likely be tainted and therefore cripple the public’s trust in the vaccine. Despite obtaining 1.8 billion Pfizer vaccines through 2023, the EU has been frustrated with a low number of vaccine rollouts overall and points to AstraZeneca as part of the blame.

Draghi announced a goal of administering 500,000 vaccinations a day for the whole month of April. As of May 5, 21.6 million out of 60 million Italians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with only about 6.5 million being fully vaccinated. This mostly accounts for the elderly and healthcare professionals, leaving much of the rest of the country waiting for their turn. 

Without inoculations, what assurance do business owners have that another lockdown doesn’t loom on the horizon? Without widespread vaccinations, hope seems even farther out of reach for people who only want to take back control of their lives. 

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British tabloids’ objectification of women is a step back from gender equality in the UK

In 2019, the UK’s upskirting law made it a criminal offense to take an image or video under someone’s clothing. In the same year, Wales made menstrual products available for free in hospitals and schools, and Northern Ireland finally legalized abortion. Over the last few years, there have been countless wins for gender equality in the UK and Ireland. However, women are far from being equal yet – especially if British tabloids continue to objectify women’s bodies in their newspapers.  

Unlike broadsheet newspapers that provide reliable news stories, tabloids run on celebrity gossip, sex scandals, and conspiracy theories. Yet despite being known for reporting stories that are factually inaccurate, The Sun, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Mirror – all tabloid newspapers – were the most read newspapers in the UK last year.

I’ve spent the pandemic working in my local supermarket, a job which on the morning shift, requires me to put the day’s newspapers out onto the shelves. I try my best not to look at the front page of the tabloids – a 6 a.m. start is hard enough without seeing them hurl abuse at Meghan Markle, and use Brexit propaganda as a way to pedal the UK’s vaccine roll-out – but the other day, my curiosity got the better of me. I took a copy of The Sun, one of the country’s most popular tabloid newspapers, and opened it behind the till. I knew what I would find inside, but I was still shocked when I found it.

Three pages in and there was already a bikini shot of Walking Dead star, Lauren Cohan, blown up in HD, as she ‘spoils readers rotten in her latest photoshoot’; the fact that Cohan was returning to the show’s 11th and final series was buried among the detailed description of her ‘toned torso’ and mention of ‘those fans who think she’s drop-dead gorgeous.’

The Sun page 3 feature with Lauren Cohan
[Image description: The Sun page 3 feature with Lauren Cohan.] The Sun

The fight against Page 3 girls – the tabloid tradition of publishing an image of a topless woman on their third page – has been going on for over four decades. For a 23-year-old like me, this regular soft-core porn feature has been around for as long as I can remember. It took countless campaigns for this feature to finally be stopped in 2015 after 45 years of printing new explicit photos of women’s bodies every single day. 

However, as I saw in the copy of the newspaper I was reading, this ban has a loophole: women in bikinis. As long as their breasts are covered, tabloids can continue to objectify the female body and sell copies of the newspaper by printing suggestive photos. The “women in bikinis loophole” lets tabloids continue to treat women as commodities, and sell their bodies as a form of entertainment.

The “women in bikinis loophole” lets tabloids continue to treat women as commodities, and sell their bodies as a form of entertainment. 

Another way that tabloids are getting around this ban, is by having women write the articles that include these photos. On page twelve of the same newspaper I had picked up that morning, there was a double-page spread of nine female celebrities in bikinis – including a nude photo of the woman who wrote the article herself.

The angle of the piece was celebrating the bodies of the over 50’s, while also attempting to take down the ‘polyfilla-ed twenty-something wannabes’ at the same time.

A double-page spread written by female writer in The Sun that pits women against each other.
[Image description: A double-page spread written by a female writer in The Sun that pits women against each other.] The Sun

At first glance, a piece like this written by a woman to celebrate women’s bodies might seem like a form of female empowerment – a clever way for women to turn this degrading tradition on its head in the fight for gender equality, and release suggestive photos on their own terms as an attempt to control their own narrative. But by posting these photos in a tabloid that for over four decades has used female bodies to sell stories, a spread like this is just another way for men to continue to sensationalize and objectify the female form, marketing it instead as a new form of feminism.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that the piece was celebrating the bodies of women over 50 – something that should be done – by tearing down the younger generation of women below them – something that definitely shouldn’t. If your brand of feminism focuses on bringing other women down, then I’m sorry, but it isn’t really feminism at all.

On a similar note, in all nine photos on this page, the women pictured had what many would consider an ideal body type; likewise, there were only two women of color on the whole double-page spread. Again, if your view of feminism doesn’t include women of all ethnicities, women of all shapes and sizes, and trans women, then you can never truly say that you’re fighting for the rights of all women.  

I am of course not saying that women who share suggestive photos of themselves aren’t real feminists – I understand how empowering this way of creating your own narrative is, and its a great way to encourage female body positivity – but I’ve seen first hand the people who buy these papers, and I’m certain that the first thing they think of when they see these photos isn’t female empowerment or the country’s fight for gender equality.

In a post Me Too era, British tabloids cultivate a misogynistic culture, letting it grow and fester while the rest of the country works hard to scrub it clean; these newspapers provide some of the last remaining drabs of blatant female objectification in print. It doesn’t come as a surprise then, that in a 2012 YouGov survey about the attitudes toward Page 3 girls, 48% of men overall were in favor of keeping the sexist feature – in comparison to just 17% of women.

By British tabloids continuing to print suggestive photos like these, the female body will never be seen as anything but a commodity used to sell stories. It doesn’t matter how hard we fight for gender equality in the UK, if the tradition of page three girls continues to exist in some way, shape, or form, this goal will forever remain out of reach. 


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Are British tabloids using nationalism to encourage Covid-19 vaccinations?

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

Before Brexit, I never saw the UK as patriotic. We were proud to be British, yes, in terms of our impact on global culture – British music, British telly, British icons, even our internet meme culture was quintessentially ours – but proud of what our country did in the past and how we’ve made an effort to build on from that in the present? Never. I’ve always been too aware of our role in the empire and how we treated those that arrived on our shores afterwards, to feel anything remotely patriotic. 

But when 52% of my country voted to leave the European Union based on a campaign that fiercely promised to ‘take back control of Britain’ and liberate it from the oppressive chicken coop prison” of the EU, I realized people in the UK were a lot more patriotic than I originally thought.

Along with racially fuelled anti-migrant propaganda, some groups from the Vote Leave campaign ran the rhetoric of ‘Make Britain Great Again’ – an inflammatory slogan that mirrored Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign; a crusade similarly based on bigotry and nationalism.

‘Make Britain Great Again’ wanted to take Britain back to its supposed post-war “glory days”; the time shortly after we had won the war, but also the time when being gay was illegal, there was no anti-discrimination legislation to prevent landlords from refusing to accept tenants of color, and despite all the work by those fighting for women’s suffrage in the war, women were once again being shoehorned into the feminine ideal of the “the perfect mother and housewife”. Ah yes, the good old days.

And a large part of the Vote Leave campaign was run through British tabloids. Popular newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail, openly backed the decision to leave the EU, running so-called patriotic front-page news stories that encouraged readers to leave the ‘increasingly greedy, wasteful, bullying, and breathtakingly incompetent’ European Union, and vote leave for ‘our chance to make Britain even greater.’

And it worked. Statistics show that the newspapers with the highest proportion of leave voters were right-wing British tabloids; by these British tabloids openly backing the Vote Leave campaign – and endorsing the idea that Britain was better at a time when minorities had fewer rights – they allowed this harmful way of thinking to become acceptable once again.

If the 2016 Brexit referendum shattered the glass of an already cracked Britain, the British tabloids were the rocks that finally smashed it into pieces. They showed many bigoted Brits, who claim to have felt silenced in the past, that if the country’s press could openly racially discriminate, so could they. And then in 2020, the pandemic hit. And later on in the year, Covid-19 vaccinations came – along with anti-vaccination rhetoric. 

If the 2016 Brexit referendum shattered the glass of an already cracked Britain, the British tabloids were the rocks that finally smashed it into pieces.

I can’t generalize for all readers of the British tabloids – nor would I want to – but many would say that there is perhaps a correlation between those that had their views on the reasons to leave the EU swayed by these papers and those that began to engage with the idea that Covid-19 vaccinations were unsafe. I’ve read enough tabloid newspapers to know that they are perfectly okay with twisting the truth, but when the government backs the science, it’s a lot more difficult to twist hard facts.

So instead, these tabloids are repackaging the Leave campaign’s vision of Britain’s so-called post-war “golden era,” to convince anti-vaxxers of the importance of Covid-19 vaccinations.

Indeed, The Sun’s ‘Jabs Army’ campaign – backed by prime-minister, Boris Johnson, himself – not only includes a heart-shaped logo complete with a union jack, but also makes use of war jargon such as ‘sign up’ and ‘vaccination volunteer force’; phrases that allude to the compulsory conscription and drafting in of soldiers, and the general post-war celebratory mood of the country coming together for the greater good.

And this isn’t the first time in the pandemic these tabloids have used Britain’s obsession with the war to tell their readers what to think; The Daily Mail devoted a whole column to Captain Tom Moore, the late army veteran who raised almost £33 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps around his garden before he turned 100.

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Of course, what Captain Tom did was great, but the tabloids spent longer writing about the fact that it was a war veteran funding the NHS, and not that our shambles of a government had left our National Health Service in such a state that it even needed this funding in the first place.

While I’ve got my own issues with British tabloids, I am definitely not against them running a pro-vaccination campaign – if it means the country is able to get immunized quicker, then I certainly don’t see it as an issue.

But I do worry that by these tabloids using the Brexit utopian dream of a post-war “glory days” Britain as a means to an end for vaccinations, it could quickly become the much more permanent end vision of Britain, that these readers have long been hoping for.  

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There are 85 unelected lawmakers in the UK who only got the job because it was their birthright

With each new election, Britain becomes more politically engaged – the turnout at the 2019 General Election was the second-highest since 1997. In some ways, being able to vote was just as much a milestone to me, as was being able to finally legally buy that cheap bottle of vodka from my local store. Even those that claim they’re not really into politics, always end up voting when the time comes around. Yet not one person in the country voted for the 85 hereditary peers currently sitting in the House of Lords who make decisions that affect every single one of the 66 million people living in the UK. 

Hereditary peers are part of the House of Lords, which along with the House of Commons, makes up the UK parliament. While the members of the House of Commons are voted in by the public in elections, the members of the House of Lords have not been chosen by the public. The majority of members (called Life Peers) are chosen on the advice of the Prime Minister – who is voted in by the general public – however, 85 of the Lords are only there because of the family they were born into. These are called Hereditary Peers.

Because of the title they inherited from their father – Duke, Earl, Viscount, Baron, etc – hereditary peers are eligible to take one of the reserved places on offer in the House of Lords. They can only be appointed by other hereditary peers in a closed by-election that only uses candidates from an exclusive Register of Hereditary Peers – it’s like the worst sort of high school clique where no one new has joined for 1000 years. 

The number of hereditary peers in the House of Lords has been significantly cut since then-Prime Minister Tony Blair brought in The House of Lords Act of 1999. However, there are still 92 seats available in the House of Lords for hereditary peers to sit in.

And since the House of Lords is responsible for making and shaping laws – covering vital areas such as welfare, health, and education – these unelected hereditary peers are making decisions for every single citizen in the UK, despite not one of these citizens ever actually voting them in.

On top of being unelected officials with the same parliamentary powers as their elected counterparts, studies have shown how hereditary peers are also logging in outrageous expense claims to exploit the taxpayer who, chances are, had no idea these hereditary peers even existed.

Simply put, the system of hereditary peers is elitist, racist, and sexist. It doesn’t belong in a country that has undoubtedly been made better for its diversity.

The system of hereditary peers is elitist, racist, and sexist. It doesn’t belong in a country that has undoubtedly been made better for its diversity.

On the UK Parliament’s official website, the House of Lords is described as offering a ‘diverse experience’ – something that sounds to me like utter horse shit. The current hereditary peers are all men, all white, nearly half went to Eton, the average age is 71, and they own at least 170,000 acres of land between them. Ah yes, diversity. 

In a country with a capital city where 40% of the population are from a Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, it’s utterly deplorable that the parliament these all-white hereditary peers are part of is said to represent a diverse Britain. It also doesn’t take a genius to realize there are no BAME families in this long list of inherited titles and lands, and since hereditary peers are only chosen from an exclusive register, there will only ever be hereditary peers from white backgrounds making decisions for a country where almost 14% of the total population are not. 

The UK is also known for making waves in the modern feminist movement and fighting hard for women’s rights and gender equality, yet all 85 of the current hereditary peers in the House of Lords are male – and this is no coincidence.

Hereditary peers still follow a system of primogeniture, The Peerage Act of 1963 claiming that female peers could claim their hereditary titles, as long as they didn’t have any brothers to claim it instead. To put this into context, even the British Royal Family got rid of the primogeniture system over a decade ago.

Many of the bills that the House of Lords debate are about women’s rights. This means that the 33.82 million women in the UK, are having decisions on issues such as sexual and reproductive health and domestic abuse, decided for them by 85 men who were only eligible for their job because their fathers were born male as well.  

Female protestors marching for a woman's right to walk home safely at night.
[Image description: Female protestors marching for a woman’s right to walk home safely at night.] Via Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

As of now, the process of rewarding those lucky dukes, earls, viscounts, and barons that were fortunate enough to be born into that family with an automatic seat in the House of Lords, shows no sign of stopping. However, a Bill by Labour Life Peer, Lord Grocott, that seeks to phase out hereditary peers by scrapping by-elections, and instead not replacing the current office-holders when they die, resign, or are expelled, has since passed its Second Reading.

But don’t get excited just yet. This is the third time Lord Grocott’s Bill has been put forward as the first and second attempts were blocked by enough of the Lords to pass – can you guess which Lords they were? 

I should note that hereditary peers aren’t universally bad. Nonetheless, they still shouldn’t be sitting in the House of Lords because no one voted them in. And with hereditary peers blocking any attempts from others to remove them, it’s likely the House of Lords will be able to continue functioning as a private members’ club for an elite few for a little while longer.

That is, the elite few lucky enough to be born into the wealth and privilege that represents no part of the Britain I know or love at all. 

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Want to protest against the new police bill in the UK? Here’s everything you can do to help

Around the UK, thousands have taken to the streets to protest against the ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.’ There have been seven demonstrations in Bristol so far, with protestors also gathering in central London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, and many more cities across the country.

What is the ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’?

The ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’ is a new piece of legislation our government is trying to bring in to change the way we protest and give the police more power over controlling these demonstrations. 

The new bill would allow police to:

• Impose start and finish times on protests
Set noise limits on demonstrations
Criminalize protests they deem a ‘public nuisance’ or a ‘serious annoyance’
Add measures to the routes of demonstrations
Apply these rules to a demonstration by just one person
Increase the maximum penalty for damaging a memorial to 10 years in prison

Why is the new bill bad?

The police bill gives police significantly more power over the way we protest – something we have a right to do in a democratic state. Without protests, it’s likely that women would still not have the vote, and only rich white men would be able to have their say in elections.

Protestors at a 'Kill the Bill' demonstration holding a placard that says, 'Priti Patel, women protested so you could have this job.'
[Image description: Protestors at a ‘Kill the Bill’ demonstration holding a placard that says, ‘Priti Patel, women protested so you could have this job.’] Via Tom Woollard on Instagram

At the moment, police officers have to show the demonstration could result in ‘serious public disorder’ before placing restrictions, as well as prove protestors knew they had been told to move on before they can say they’ve broken the law.  

With this new bill, police can easily shut down demonstrations they deem a ‘public nuisance’ – a vague term that could easily be applied to any and all protests – even those made up of just one person holding a placard and shouting into a speaker. 

The new bill will also make it a crime if protestors failed to follow restrictions they ‘ought’ to have known about, even if they have not received a direct order from an officer. This means that you can face criminal action if you breach conditions – without even realizing it.

Under the proposed law, you could face up to 10 years in prison for damaging a statue or memorial. To put this into context, this is a longer sentence than that given for violent crimes against living people. If this bill got through parliament then, there would be harsher penalties for damaging a statue, than for attacking a woman.

Two women at the Kill the Bill protest in Leeds holding placards.
[Image description: Two women at the Kill the Bill protest in Leeds holding placards.] Via Tom Woollard on Instagram

The new bill is in danger of violating international human rights laws, namely Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to freedom of assembly and association. And even former Prime Minister, Theresa May, has condemned the bill, urging the Conservative party to rethink as ‘our freedoms depend on it.’

How can I fight against the new bill? 

There are lots of ways to make your voice heard against this new bill. If you don’t feel comfortable going out and protesting, you can sign Netpol’s Protect Your Freedom To Protest petition, which opposes the proposed bill and calls on the National Police Chiefs Council to adopt a new Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights. You can also sign this Stop the Policing Bill petition.

What’s more, you can write to your local MP to express your concerns. While writing your own email from scratch will have more of an impact, you can also write to your MP using this email template, created by Sara Motaghian and Anuradha Damale. (There’s also one in Welsh.)

Protestor at a Kill the Bill protest with a placard that says, 'No progress without protest.'
[Image description: Protestor at a Kill the Bill protest with a placard that says, ‘No progress without protest.’] Via Tom Woollard on Instagram

Joining a protest

If you do want to join a demonstration, here’s what you need to know about your rights as a protestor – with thanks to Black Protest Legal Support for providing this information.

Am I allowed to protest?

Your right to protest is a fundamental Human Right. It is protected by Article 10 (the right to freedom of speech) and Article 11 (the right to assembly and protest) of the European Convention of Human Rights – don’t worry, even though the UK has now officially left the European Union, this is a European treaty so it still applies to British citizens. 

Can I protest in the pandemic?

Since the pandemic began, rules and restrictions across the UK have constantly been changing. This has affected protests in a number of ways. At the time of writing this article, government regulations in England allow protests to go ahead – provided the organisers adhere to a certain set of conditions. 

If you are attending a demonstration, make sure to check out what measures the organiser has put in place to limit the risk of spreading Covid-19. You should also be sure to socially distance and wear a mask – both for your own safety and for the safety of other protesters.

Protestor at the Kill the Bill protest in Leeds with a placard on the back of their wheelchair that says, 'Yes, I am exercising. I am exercising my right to peaceful protest.'
[Image description: Protestor at the Kill the Bill protest in Leeds with a placard on the back of their wheelchair that says, ‘Yes, I am exercising. I am exercising my right to peaceful protest.’] Via Tom Woollard on Instagram

What powers do the police use at protests?

If you are thinking of attending a demonstration, you should be aware of some of the tactics the police use at protests, namely stop and searches and kettling – if you see the police line-up begin to form a kettle and you do not wish to be part of it, the safest thing to do for you and the people around you is to quietly leave.

If you are stopped by the police and asked for your name and what you are doing, you do not have to answer. You can just walk away – they cannot arrest you or search you just for refusing to answer. However, it is a criminal offense to give false information. If you’re not sure why the police are asking for your details, ask them “under what power.”

The police only have the power to ask for your name if they suspect you of anti-social behaviour, and it then becomes an offense if you refuse to provide it.

If you are arrested, say “no comment” to all questions, until you have legal advice from a specialist solicitor with knowledge about protests. Do not accept a duty solicitor.

Instead, contact one of the following solicitors across the UK that offer free 24-hour advice:

ITN Solicitors: 0203 909 8100

Hodge Jones Allen (HJA): 0844 848 0222

Commons: 020 3865 5403

Bindmans: 020 7305 5638

More useful links and information

Follow Black Protest Legal Support UK on Twitter and Instagram for updates and advice on protesting both against the new police bill, and other demonstrations across the UK.

Follow Sisters Uncut on Twitter for more ways you can protest against the bill as well as fight for women’s rights and freedoms.

Follow Liberty on Twitter for ways to fight against injustices in the UK and hold the government accountable for their actions. Equally, their advice hub has loads of good information on protesting and policing, as well as protesting in the pandemic.

The freedom to protest is our human right, and we’re not letting go of it that easily.

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Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah reminds us not to romanticize the British Monarch

Since the beginning of their marriage in May of 2018, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have grown familiar with the grief accompanying their involvement with the British Monarch. They have been on the receiving end of racist media coverage and a part of an ever-growing conflict with the Crown.  

Now, almost three years later, Meghan and Harry’s discord with the Institution has come to a head. On Sunday night, the pair took control over their narrative in a private, sit-down interview with Oprah. In the emotional interview, Meghan Markle candidly illustrated the maltreatment she endured as a working royal within the monarchy, setting social media into a frenzy. 

[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.] Via
[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.] Via
Firstly, Meghan shared her struggles with getting help for suicide ideation from the Royal institution stating, “I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help… and I was told that I couldn’t [because] it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

Meghan disclosing her mental health issues to an institution that was supposed to protect her but was prevented from doing so serves as a reminder: all-too-often Black women are expected to be strong or endure abuse for the comfort or protection of others. Social media quickly noted the hindsight surrounding the Crown’s unwillingness to offer protection to a Black woman they deemed unworthy of assimilation into the monarch, solely based on her personhood.

Additionally, Meghan and Oprah discussed a popular tabloid story published by the Daily Mail that circulated six months after Meghan and Harry’s wedding. The story covered a scandal claiming Meghan made Kate Middleton cry days leading up to the wedding due to a disagreement over flower girl dresses. 

Meghan revealed in the interview, however, it was Kate who made her cry.

Following the incident, Meghan said Kate apologized and brought flowers and a note to heal the rift. However, this story would then expose Meghan to the inner workings of the racist tabloid press and the extent UK media would go to publicly villainize a Black woman.

[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle.] Via
[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle.] Via
In fact, the British tabloids are infamous for racism, bigotry, and bullying; something which they vehemently deny. In recent years, UK tabloids have written offensive and discriminatory stories covering Brexit, the refugee crisis, and immigration. Meghan Markle has only been the latest target within a media storm as the British press profit from writing racist stories on the former Duchess. 

Notably, one of the more major disclosures made by Meghan in the interview, and later affirmed by Harry, is how an unnamed member of the Royal Family raised concerns about how dark the complexion of their son Archie’s skin might be while Meghan was pregnant. 

Oprah’s shocked reaction after hearing this revelation mirrored many viewers’ own disturbance upon learning the extent of the Crown’s racism. The comments made toward Meghan’s son were abhorrently racist and highlight the long existed presence of anti-Black racism the British Monarch often perpetuates. 

All of this considered, Megan’s experience of enduring racism and misogynoir within the ranks of the establishment and the press should serve as a reminder of Britain’s violent racism and oppressive colonialism. More specifically, the crown’s history is quite literally intertwined with slavery and the colonization of African and Caribbean nations.

Slave-trading initiatives were endorsed by the British monarchy starting in the 1500s. Throughout the following centuries, Britain profited from slave-trading out of West Africa, at times even supplying enslaved individuals for the United States, with the Crown’s financial and political support. At one point, Britain even ruled almost 30 percent of Africa. African countries like Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda were under British rule as early as the start of the twentieth century. And many of the aforementioned nations are still navigating the negative impact of colonization

In recent years, there has been a slew of television series depicting royal life on screen from Netflix’s hit shows Bridgerton and The Crown to Hulu’s The Great. Shows like Bridgerton have been accused by critics of romanticizing the British Monarch, perpetuating colorism, and erasing the legacy of slavery in the process. 

There have been similarities drawn between Meghan’s mistreatment by the Crown to Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. The eerie parallels, if nothing else, prove The Royal Family has not learned from history, nor will they change. Rather, the Crown continues to bully those with less power. So, we must remember not to romanticize the seeming and intentional glamour of royal society. 

As Kathleen Newman-Bremang accurately states in an article for Refinery29, “An institution built on colonialism and racism that publicly prides itself on decency and decorum not only thrives on their bigotry being wielded in secret —  it depends on it.” Instead, we must engage with the British monarch as they are: an imperialist institution with a detailed history of anti-Black violence.

On the other hand, many on social media have critiqued Meghan for her willingness to marry into such a corrupt institution. Therefore, online critics claim she is liable for the suffering she endured at the hands of the Crown.  

However, we can acknowledge Meghan’s consent to marry into a colonialist institution complicit in the oppression of marginalized people. We can additionally acknowledge the colorism, featurism, and texturism which allowed Meghan such proximity to the monarch, while it was racism that sought to root her out. All while also empathizing with the anti-Blackness she endured from the institution and support her and Harry’s willingness to learn the ways they can improve going forward. 

Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah was a necessary one in revealing how far the Palace will go to protect white members of the royal family. Subsequently, allowing Meghan, a Black woman, to be appallingly villainized in the process. 

Harry confessed he feared history would be repeating itself if he didn’t take action to protect his family. As the public, we must continue our efforts to protect and advocate for Black people and the most oppressed among us. 

The empire the royal family benefits from at the expense of Black lives must continuously be held liable for the ongoing destruction it has caused— even long after Meghan and Harry’s exit.


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Health News Coronavirus Europe The World

Clapping has become the UK government’s new and absurd way to deal with national crisises

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been unprecedented. It has had an impact on every aspect of our lives and in some ways, completely changed the way we behave. Across the globe, governments have responded in extremely different ways. Islands like New Zealand and Australia immediately closed their borders. Countries in mainland Europe followed suit, however the long-term upkeep has been difficult.

As an island, I expected the UK to follow suit and close its borders. You cannot access the UK unless you sail or fly so it didn’t seem like an unreasonable response, however, the government is incompetent. And so, here we are one year on from the first cases detected in the UK and our NHS (National Health Service) is struggling, infection rates are rising, and we are in and out of lockdowns more than high schoolers in relationships.

The NHS was implemented after the Second World War to provide free healthcare to British and later EU citizens. To say it has been a lifesaver would not be giving it enough credit. So many of us in the UK would not be here without the NHS – and a future without it seems unimaginable.

So, how does the government deal with such a crucial institution during the time of a pandemic? Increase its funds? No. By clapping.

During the years before the pandemic, the Conservative government systematically cut funding to both the NHS and its workers. By the time the pandemic hit, the system was not in a place where it was able to cope with the increasing demand.

Junior doctors had been striking against increased hours without higher pay and the government refused to grant them better working conditions. Last March, both the NHS and the government put out the call asking for retired staff to come back to help- and they did en masse.

In appreciation, the government raised the salary of career politicians and began clapping weekly to show some gratitude to medical practitioners. The Covid cases, especially in the North of England, were rising steadily with well over 2,000,000 cases. The reproductive rate in the North of England had reached 1.5 – yet the government did not act.

It reached such a low point that a 100-year-old man, Sir Captain Tom Moore, an otherwise ordinary citizen who had fought in the Second World War, walked around his garden over the Summer as a means to raise money for the NHS. His goal was to raise £1000 by his 100th birthday, yet on the morning of his birthday, it was reported that he had raised well over £30 million. The NHS is not a charity, it does not depend on the donations of the public to keep going. The fact that a regular citizen felt compelled to raise money in this manner is awful. The work done by Sir Captain Tom Moore was amazing and he should be commended for it but it should not have been needed.

A few days ago, Sir Captain Tom Moore died from Covid-19; and in true British fashion, the government organized a national clap for him. Sir Tom was born prior to the creation of the NHS and had seen the suffering of a country without a national healthcare system firsthand. It is disrespectful to his memory that the UK government chose performative appreciation over actually helping the NHS in his memory.

The NHS is probably one of the only things Britain has to be proud of. The lack of care by the Government for the people who are the most vulnerable is pathetic. To suggest that the way to show appreciation is through clapping is insulting. So many frontline workers have put their lives on the line and haven’t received anything from the Government. The pandemic has near enough crippled the UK, at the time of writing, there were over 3,911,573 cases of COVID-19. With the 3rd lockdown in force, many self-employed and small business owners are struggling to provide for their families yet the Government are more interested in clapping than bringing an end to the pandemic.

The clapping needs to stop, and the Government needs to act.


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Coronavirus Europe Politics The World

The current British Government cannot hide its contempt for the poor

Here’s some numbers that will give you an idea of how elitism is central to the British political sphere – 65% of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet were educated at fee-paying private schools, compared to 7% of the national population. The elite few are disproportionately representing British people who have had far less of a privileged life compared to those that hold power in government. The same elite few are completely out of touch and show little regard to the poor population of the country. 

In Britain, high levels of poverty have been caused by the policies enacted by the Conservative government under Johnson and his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron. Policies include introducing a new welfare system, Universal Credit, which provides significantly less money, leaving many claimants worse off; and £36bn taken out of the benefits system since 2010, including cuts in disability benefits. 

The government’s agenda to raise employment figures through these policies has backfired and left the most vulnerable in Britain into further destitution. There’s now an increase in food banks in the country and 4.2 million children in poverty. Even a UN poverty expert who visited Britain compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses. British people who were already below the poverty line have been hit further by the Covid-19 pandemic, and 2020 exposed how the government has tried to get away with as little as possible when it came to helping families and children in need.

This led to UNICEF feeding hungry children in the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, for the first time in its 70-year history. The UN agency donated £25,000 to the community project School Food Matters to supply 18,000 breakfasts to 25 schools over the recent two-week Christmas holidays and upcoming February half-term, supporting 1,800 families in Southwark, South London, who have been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic – declared by UNICEF to be the most urgent crisis affecting children since the second world war.

So how did the British government respond to this news? When the question of UNICEF’s support was raised in the House of Commons by opposition Labour MP Zarah Sultana to Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, he claimed UNICEF should be “ashamed of itself”. He further stated that he thinks “it’s a real scandal that UNICEF should be playing politics in this way when it is meant to be looking after people in the poorest, the most deprived countries in the world, where people are starving, where there are famines and there are civil wars. And they make cheap political points of this kind, giving, I think, £25,000 to one council. It is a political stunt of the lowest order.”

His shocking comments were immediately met with backlash on social media. When confronted by the realities of what is happening on his doorstep, Rees-Mogg’s response was to deflect blame towards the international humanitarian agency for daring to grant funds to a UK charity. Privilege, wealth, and political power are fundamental forces in British politics – Rees-Mogg and the government show unwillingness to help those in poverty but are willing to treat other people and organizations that question their position as inferior.

Last year, footballer Marcus Rashford prompted the government to U-turn on their policies not once, but twice on the matter of financial support for poor children and their families. Back in June last year, 1.3 million children in England were able to claim free school meal vouchers in the summer holidays following the successful campaign led by Rashford – but his campaign was met with derision by a member of the cabinet, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey. Rashford had asked his followers on Twitter to think about struggling parents who have had their “water turned off”, and whose children have gone hungry. Coffey’s single reply to his Twitter thread on free school meals was “water cannot be disconnected”. Rashford remarked how he was concerned this is the only tweet of his that Coffey acknowledged.

Coffey’s deliberate disregard of the difficulties facing parents and children across the country exposes the deep-held belief by government ministers that the poorer in our society just have to find a way to cope without government support. In November, a second campaign by Rashford led the government to take another U-turn and agree to spend more than £400m as part of a winter grant scheme to support poor children and their families in England. The November U-turn was on the back of Rashford calling for free meals to be provided over the October half-term, as the government agreed to during the summer period. The government refused, claiming the benefits system will be enough to support families. When the Labour party raised a motion in the House of Commons in October to call for an extension of free meals for school children over the October half-term and Christmas holidays, 320 Conservative MPs voted against the motion – the government was prepared for children to go hungry for the sake of the government holding their purses tight against their chest.

As soon as the government was met with criticism, politicians who voted against the extension made an effort to defend how they voted. Conservative MP Ben Bradley claimed that free school meals “increases dependency”. He continued directing his condescending remarks to Rashford, “Gov has lots of responsibilities: supporting the vulnerable, helping people to help themselves, balancing the books. Not as simple as you to make out Marcus.”

Rashford’s response was, “families have suffered a drop in income. Nearly 1 million have fallen off the payroll. This is not dependency, this a cry for help.” Finally, after facing criticism from Rashford, the media, and the public, the government had no choice but to agree to the winter grant scheme a month after the vote in the Commons.

Why does it take a high-profile figure like Rashford to raise awareness of how much poorer families are struggling across the country when the government can see for themselves what is happening before them? Rashford’s campaign made the public more aware of the government’s lack of empathy for the poor. Their contempt for the poor was out in the open for the country to see. The government was shamed into taking action, they didn’t take action of their own volition.

There’s an underlying sentiment held by government ministers who feel entitled to be at the top due to their elite status. The elite are drawn to politics and power not out of any sense of purpose or duty, but a dull and common belief that such things are what people like them do. This sentiment, which is present at the heart of government, has led the elite to deny the levels of poverty and show complete contempt for the poor in Britain.


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Editor's Picks Coronavirus Europe The World

What you need to know about the new COVID-19 strain detected in the UK

The word is shutting off the UK, and it’s not because of Brexit, but something much scarier: a new strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the country and announced a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions for the Christmas period, scratching the previously announced break for the holiday period. The announced measures were surprisingly harsh, creating a new “Tier 4” for London and many parts of the South-East of the country, which will not allow its inhabitants to mix with other households for the holidays. However, the sudden U-turn of the UK government, who had stated only three days prior that it would be “inhumane to cancel Christmas” was not the thing that shocked the country. Rather, the reason for panic has been the identification of a new variant of COVID-19 which is 70% more contagious.

It is a known fact that viruses mutate. Usually, these new variants die-out, as they tend to be weaker than the original virus. Sometimes they continue to spread with very similar characteristics, being very difficult to distinguish from the original strain. Very rarely, they become more aggressive.

Although new mutations of COVID-19 have been identified since last April, none of them were considered to be more concerning than the original version of the virus, neither did they require different treatments or medications.  Last month, the Danish government culled millions of mink who carried a COVID-19 mutation, and in October, it was suggested that a coronavirus variant originating in Spanish farm workers was spreading rapidly through Europe. However, the new variant present in the UK seems to be different, and more concerning.

According to the Prime Minister, the new variant of COVID-19, VUI-202012/01 is 70% more transmissible than the previous versions of the virus and causes people to have a much larger viral load when they get the disease. This is because of a series of 23 mutations that have been identified in the pathogen’s genetic coding, many of which are associated with the “spike” protein, the part of the virus responsible for binding to human cells.

“As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the south-east,” the UK government’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, stated. “The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) now considers that the new strain can spread more quickly. We have alerted the World Health Organization and are continuing to analyze the available data to improve our understanding.”

[Image description: A graph of the increased number of cases in England from March to December 2020] Via the UK government website.
[Image description: A graph of the increased number of cases in England from March to December 2020] Via the UK government website.
This higher spreading rate is the cause of the increased COVID-19 numbers in the UK, particularly around the London area. Between November 29th and December 13th, the rate of coronavirus infections in the UK has increased by 50%. As of last Sunday (December 20th), just over 1,100 COVID-19 cases with the new variant have been identified. The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain is “out of control”, admitting that this is “an incredibly difficult end to frankly an awful year”. 

However, let’s not panic just yet.

Current medical studies have shown no evidence than the new variant is more deadly than the original virus, or that the vaccines that are currently being administered to millions across the globe are less effective towards it. Although most vaccines do target this “spike” protein, the virus would need to mutate very significantly in order to make the vaccine ineffective, said Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser.

While more studies are being conducted to confirm these affirmations, many countries have imposed strict border controls or even banned flights from the UK, in an attempt to control the spread of this new variant. As we speak, the European Union is holding an emergency meeting to decide on a coordinated response to control the spread of the virus. At the same time, Boris Johnson will chair an emergency COBRA meeting to discuss the UK being cut off from Europe. In addition to freedom of movement, the delivery of necessary goods such as food is of great concern to the British administration.

[Image description: A map of the countries which have banned flights from the UK since the announcement of the new COVID-19 strain, including Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Iran and Saudi Arabia] Via Election Maps UK.
[Image description: A map of the countries which have banned flights from the UK since the announcement of the new COVID-19 strain, including Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Iran and Saudi Arabia] Via Election Maps UK.
This avalanche of terrible news is the last straw for many of us, who have spent the last few weeks hoping for a calm Christmas week, where all the issues threatening the future of the UK such as Brexit and the pandemic, could be put to the side. After all, let’s not forget that the UK is set to leave the EU on January 1st and there still isn’t a deal that regulates how it will happen and who or what will be allowed to cross the border.

As an immigrant who has made the United Kingdom my home for the last 5 years, I am terrified of the situation that the country is currently facing. Nonetheless, while we wait for scientists and policy experts to examine the characteristics of the new strain of COVID-19 and (hopefully) make a decision on Brexit and freedom of movement, let’s remember to be responsible. Yes, this Christmas will be different, and yes, this new strain is scary, but all we can go at the moment is make sure we keep ourselves healthy, mentally and emotionally, and that we follow the rules set by the experts. We don’t know much about VUI-202012/01 but we know it’s transmitted the same way as COVID-19.

So, this holiday season, avoid travelling, wear a mask, and wash your hands. Be safe, and turn off the TV if you have to.

A holiday guide for the COVID-19 pandemic



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Reproductive Rights World News Europe Gender The World

Here’s what you need to know about Poland’s abortion ban

Poland has had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe to date. Abortion has never been legal in Poland but the state has allowed it in select few cases. On 22nd October 2020, the Polish government amended the abortion law for the worst. The recent court ruling has banned almost all abortions except those in cases of rape or incest.

The Polish court is dominated by the ruling party – The Law and Justice party (PiS). PiS has previously expressed strong ideas about traditional families and contempt towards the LGBTQ+ community, and this ruling is a result of a request by the MPs to review the existing abortion laws. The court ruling came in line with Poland’s Roman Catholic episcopate and the PiS. It has placed Poland outside the settled European consensus on the right of women to control their own bodies.

The Polish government has long ignored the obligations of the European Union membership, and the European Commission expressed concerns over breaches of rule of law. Whilst, the European Parliament has supported this regulation, it has been blocked by governments in the council. It is difficult to ascertain what course of action the European Commission would pursue but it is unlikely that the Polish government will be able to avoid consequences this time.

Abortions carried out when the fetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations in 2019 have now been outlawed. Less than 2000 legal terminations are carried out each year in Poland. According to women’s groups’ estimates, up-to 200,000 abortions are either performed illegally or abroad. Health Ministry figures have shown that 1,110 legal abortions were held in Poland in 2019. 

The new abortion law prohibits abortions due to any fatal abnormalities or incurable illnesses of the child. This means that women will be forced to carry out pregnancies that they know are not viable. It is impossible to imagine how traumatic and emotionally damaging this would be for the woman giving birth to such a child. It also adds risk to the mother’s health. Women that retain a dead embryo or fetus can experience severe blood loss or develop an infection of the womb. 

Malgorzata Szulecka, a lawyer for the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, told the BBC: “This is a totally unjustified decision that will lead to inhuman treatment of women.” Although the ruling affects all women, those who belong to marginalized groups will be disproportionately affected, as they may not even be able to travel outside of the country to get an abortion.

International human rights groups have condemned the ruling. Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Human Rights Watch said they would send independent monitors to the court. Protests have erupted across Poland and elsewhere in Europe in reaction to the ruling, which are still continuing. Protestors also disrupted church services to express anger over the Catholic church’s role in public life. Much of the anger, however, is directed towards the PiS. Protestors have been attacked by tear gas, and the police has arrested a number of protestors.

Marta Kotwas, a researcher at UCL’s School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies specializing in rightwing populism in Poland, said: “There is so much anger because people can see how the abortion issue is being exploited as a political issue, how women are being used as a bargaining chip by political actors.”

The situation was further exacerbated by reports that doctors are canceling scheduled terminations of fetuses with severe defects to avoid breaking the law. 

The PiS has said that they would propose a new law to better support women and their children”, which could be an opportunity to soften the blow of the court decision, though no such action has been taken as of yet.

The abortion ban in Poland displays an assault on women’s rights and creates a question of women’s autonomy in the so called developed world. Women are being exploited and losing their bodily autonomy in the face of political conflict. According to some, the ban on abortions is to appease conservative factions of the country. The criminalization or restriction on abortions will not stop abortions, it will only make them less safe. Decisions around pregnancy and abortion impact human rights and the criminalization of abortion adds to the stigma. Poland’s ban on abortion is yet another reminder of how easily women’s rights can be exploited in any part of the world sometimes under the guise of cultural values or religion.

Mass demonstrations have continued in Poland and we have yet to see an outcome favorable to women. Meanwhile, what we can do is raise awareness about the unjust ban in an attempt to protect women’s rights and safety.

Here is what you can do to help:

Coronavirus Education Europe The World

The UK has failed students yet again after COVID outbreaks forcibly close Universities 

Welcome to one of the most stressful times of the year: move-in season for university students.

Up and down the United Kingdom young people have begun to pack up their entire lives into suitcases whilst parents yell ‘you have too much stuff!’ You can always tell which cars are heading to Universities because there’s a duvet in the back, siblings squished into one seat, and overwhelmed parents navigating the roads. I’m sure if you have attended a British University the word ‘Freshers’ brings memories to mind; some are weird and cringeworthy but altogether an unforgettable starting stone of your university experience. Freshers is the very first week of University – its the time when clubs are open every day and you find yourself in a random flat party introducing yourself to a million people. It’s also the time when first years acquaint themselves with their new University town and living alone for the first time. 

This year, however, things were a little bit different. With COVID-19 none of us were even sure if our universities were opening at all. Many universities decided early on to open up their accommodations to both new and returning students with extremely vague guidelines. 

While ‘Freshers’ has been cancelled this year, it hasn’t stopped people from flaunting the rules. Outbreaks throughout the country have been attributed to illegal house parties in university towns which have been broken up by the police and met with a £10,000 fine.

Given the unclear guidelines and an apathetic government, no one is surprised that there has been an increase in cases. However, to combat the spread some Universities, such as Glasgow University, have since locked down students. 

Students have now been told, after already moving away, that their lectures are entirely online and that there is a great possibility that they will not be able to go home for the winter break. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has referred to keeping these institutions going as the ‘Blitz spirit,’ or the idea that we should all ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ like people did during the Blitz bombing in World War II.

Johnson is attempting to evoke an antiquated and ignorant sentiment and apply it to a completely new situation.

Universities should have never been allowed to open. More importantly, students should have never been conned out of thousands of pounds to pay for their accommodation for universities to close after settling in.

 To put it in context: for my year I am paying around £6000. Unfortunately, having a Government that doesn’t care about its people will always put money first. This money has been taken from people who went from being the saviours of the British economy to the devils among us in under a month. During August, the government launched a new scheme to kick start the economy named ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. Each establishment had their prices cut up to 50% and the difference paid for by the Government. This meant that consumers were given a competitive price and businesses didn’t miss out. The scheme was aimed mainly at young people who had been in lockdown since March in order to repopulate towns and cities again. During August, the Government conveniently ignored COVID-19 and no restrictions were in place. The track and trace system was a box-ticking exercise in which not every member of your party had to ‘check-in’. 

Universities should have never been allowed to open. More importantly, students should have never been conned out of thousands of pounds to pay for their accommodation for universities to close after settling in.

It was only when the cases began to rise that the Government chose to act: by blaming young people. It is unfair to scapegoat a group of people who, just a month ago, were encouraged to go out. Even when cases began to rise the Government still refused to take action and close down the establishments. Instead, they dug their heads in the sand in hopes that it would pass, much like the first wave. However, we are now seeing another huge spike in cases with much of the North of England already in local lockdown.

While the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme ended in early September, the Government had already made as much money as they could at that point so it no longer mattered. The damage was already done, making young people the ultimate victims of this whole mess in more ways than one.

Even though the Government had the all of the necessary and important information, they were blinded by greed and didn’t warn against expensive student accommodation or advise students to study from home. Instead, they led with vague guidelines which no one understood.

It is unfair to scapegoat a group of people who, just a month ago, were encouraged to go out.

Currently, almost all University teaching is online, so there is no need for student accommodation, but the money which we have all paid will not be reimbursed because the Government refuses to mandate complete online learning.

One thing has become clear in this situation: in the government’s eyes, students and young people are the cash cows that will never stop milking. 


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