POLICE have asked anti-racism protesters to explore ‘alternative’ ways of making their voices heard ahead of a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest in Worcester as coronavirus continues to claim lives. A protest is due to take place in Worcester city centre this Saturday at 1.30pm with organisers expecting as many as 700 active supporters in a display of solidarity following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

South Worcestershire Commander, Superintendent Stephanie Brighton said: “We ask them to find alternative and legal methods to have their say and voice their concerns.”

And others have expressed concern about having a protest at all during a global pandemic and after violence erupted elsewhere in the UK. Organisers say the protest will be ‘peaceful’ and social distancing will be maintained - they will arrive hours before the public to mark out two metre boxes and set up a station where sanitised masks and gloves can be given out.

Supt Brighton said: “We know that there are several planned protests over coming days and West Mercia Police is engaging with protest organisers, wherever possible, to remind them of the current legal restrictions in relation to gatherings of more than six people.

“We understand that people want to make their voices heard in relation to this issue and the wider context surrounding it. The right to lawful protest is key part of any democracy, which West Mercia Police does and will continue to uphold and facilitate. But Covid-19 remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread. It is currently unlawful for groups of more than six people to gather outside for that reason.

“For whatever reason people want to come together, we ask the public to remember the restrictions and their responsibilities in relation to social distancing. We ask them to find alternative and legal methods to have their say and voice their concerns.”

Meanwhile, two Conservative councillors, one of whom was initially supportive of the march, have expressed concerns.

Cllr Chris Mitchell, who is a mixed race former soldier, pulled out over what he described as the ‘mindless thuggery’ displayed by protestors elsewhere in the UK. Now Cllr Alan Amos has expressed concerns about how social distancing will be maintained at the planned Worcester march while attacking the ‘lawlessness’ and ‘anarchy’ of protests elsewhere.

In a letter Cllr Alan Amos wrote of his concerns about the protest at a time when people in the city have not been allowed to go to the funerals of their loved ones.

He wrote: “It is deeply worrying that the police are again allowing another demonstration to take place in Worcester, on Saturday, the third in five weeks. Whilst so many relatives have been prevented from attending the funerals of their loved ones, and the law limits groups to six, mass gatherings of trouble-makers are routinely now allowed to blatantly flout the law, openly ignore social distancing and spread the virus while the police stand by. Not only do we have trouble-makers deciding which laws they will obey or ignore with impunity, but also police deciding which laws to enforce and which ones they won’t. Anarchy is when the law is both ignored and not enforced. Police seem to allow every demonstration, whether it be by Green trouble-makers or Black Lives Matter. By telling the organisers in advance that they won’t be taking any enforcement, the police are encouraging lawlessness. The ugly scenes we are now witnessing is the direct and inevitable consequence of putting appeasement and political correctness above the duty to enforce the law. We are indeed living in troubling times.

Cllr Amos also said he believed many found the “Black Lives Matter” slogan grating. A more appropriate one would be “ALL Lives Matter”, regardless of skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, or any other irrelevant factor.”

However, protest organisers hit back at Cllr Amos’s comments. One wrote in reply that the stationary rally will be socially distanced. They wrote: “We have given ourselves weeks to plan out every detail, and will be arriving hours before the public to mark out two metre boxes and set up a station where sanitised masks and gloves can be given out. The entire protest will be monitored heavily by stewards and a few street officers, so uncivil behaviour and the spread of Covid should be no problem. I urge you to take a look at the protests in Malvern a few days ago - they got their message across and had an amazing turnout whilst still remaining apart from each other in a manner which I certainly wouldn’t describe as ‘anarchy’.

They added: “I’d also like to clear up a few of your concerns with the discrimination against “white boys” and the real reason we are holding this protest. "You seem to be confused about who holds the power and privilege within society and I’d urge you to sit down and do some extended reading - perhaps take a look at ‘ A Complete History of Britain ‘ by Simon Schama and maybe recap on the concept of colonialism and the fact that many of our existing structures are built on the back of slavery, misogyny, and white supremacy.

“In terms of your outrage surrounding the ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogan, I really would hope you’d have the capacity to understand context, but let me break it down for you if that’s a little easier. ‘All Lives Matter’ - yes, of course they should, but while anti-blackness is so prevalent, all lives do not matter, and we are pushing for equality.”