Police have today (31 July) imposed conditions on tomorrow’s planned “lockdown” of Brixton as part of the seventh Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March which sees thousands of people congregate in Brixton.
They said they have been and will continue to engage with those who are involved with organising this event that, the police said, is “primarily to enjoy a family-friendly, socially distanced day of activities and learning”.
But the police highlighted plans to close Brixton Road, for unlicensed music events (UMEs), and information they said they had received that there are plans for deliberate disruption and confrontation with police.
They also warned, backed by Lambeth council, that “gatherings of over 30 people will be in breach of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020”.
Police said plans to close Brixton Road – the A23 – were “something that the Metropolitan Police Service and partners believe would cause serious disruption to the communities of Brixton and the surrounding areas. This is part of a significant road network connecting south London and is used by hundreds of bus routes and thousands of other road users.”
Extinction Rebellion, which is supporting the event, has said Brixton Road will be closed from 7am from Max Roach Park to Windrush Square.
Police said the large diversions that would be required to accommodate this disruption “would have a major impact on local residents and businesses”.
For this reason, they said they were imposing the following conditions on the event, that it must be contained:
- Within Max Roach Park, SW9, not encroaching onto Villa Road, Brixton Road, St Johns Crescent or Wiltshire Road or any adjacent footway or highway.
- A designated area outside Brixton Police Station, not encroaching onto the adjacent footway of Brixton Road, Gresham Road and Canterbury Crescent.
- Windrush Square confined to the area within the rectangular bollards including the grassed area, with no incursion onto Brixton Hill, Effra Road, Saltoun Road or Coldharbour Lane or any adjacent footway or highway; and
- All events must end by 8pm.
Deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor, who will be in charge of the policing operation tomorrow, said: “The decision to impose conditions on an assembly is never taken lightly and is made following a vigorous assessment of the information available to us.
“We have no intention of infringing upon a responsibly organised community event. We only require that this is done in a way that makes use of Brixton’s open spaces and leaves the main road through Brixton open to other Londoners.”
He said that putting a clear condition on the end time would allow police to differentiate between “those who are attending the Afrikan Emancipation Day and others who may be attending these open spaces for the purposes of another gathering, or for an unlicensed music event, the like of which we have seen in past weeks.
Taylor added: “In recent weeks we have policed a number of UMEs in which loud music is played at night, disrupting local residents and posing a real threat both to property and the officers who attend to disperse them.
“We have received information that there are those intending to come to Brixton on Saturday to purposely cause disruption, and to confront police officers.
“This is in stark contrast to the feel of the events that will take place earlier in the day and is in opposition to the wishes of the local community.
“As such, officers will be in Brixton throughout the day with the aim of preventing any disorder, but also stand ready to respond should there be anti-social behaviour or disorder.”
The police said that “it must also be remembered that gatherings of over 30 people will be in breach of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.”
Gathering in large numbers puts those groups and others at risk, they said.
“The decision to impose conditions under the Public Order Act 1986 does not mean that the assembly in breach of these regulations is authorised by the police.”
Jacqui Dyer, Lambeth council’s cabinet member for jobs, skills and community safety, said: “Planned events in Brixton this weekend could put our residents at risk, at a time when we are in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic, which is hitting Lambeth communities hard.
“People must protect themselves and this community by wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing at all times, regardless of what events are taking place.
“While the right to protest must be respected and Lambeth council supports action to address racial injustice and inequality, now is not the right time to have large-scale public gatherings.
“We must put the safety of our residents first.”