Community, not conspiracy – a letter to anti-lockdown protest organisers

By James Beecher, Jeremy Green, and Laura Rowan, with over 200 signatures listed below

Living through the Covid-19 pandemic under the measures and restrictions introduced to manage the spread of the coronavirus is not easy. The new national lockdown announced on Halloween will have many effects beyond hopefully slowing the spread of the virus and reducing the number of people who die or suffer severe consequences. But pretending the virus does not exist and rejecting any and all guidance and advice about how to limit it spreading is no help to anyone. People who peddle racism, deny the Holocaust, and promote baseless conspiracy theories should not be invited to speak in our town.

Organisers of a rally planned for next Saturday 7th November in Stroud seem determined to go ahead despite the fact that Stroud District Council has “refused permission to hold a rally in Stratford Park on November 7 due to the current Covid restrictions.” It is not a surprise that organisers plan to ignore measures. Though the event is to be held outdoors where the chances of infections being passed on are lower, it still represents an unacceptably complacent attitude towards the people in our community who are at higher risk from Covid-19.

Our problem with the event is not only that it will be in breach of guidelines and potentially worsen the local Covid-19 situation; organisers have invited two speakers who promote anti-scientific nonsense and a range of conspiracy theories. As well as sharing misinformation about Covid-19 and claiming it is a ‘hoax’, Piers Corbyn notoriously denies scientific evidence on climate change. This event will not be the first where he has spoken alongside a Holocaust denier. Sandi Adams, the other invited speaker, has several examples of clearly antisemitic material on her personal website. 

In a post dated July 2020 (subsequently deleted but available through the Way Back internet archive) and entitled “The truth IS anti-Semitic”, Adams points to the long discredited antisemitic hoax document “the Protocols of Zion” and claims that Jewish groups are part of a “powerful and insidious” effort to exert global control and to stop people from questioning the Holocaust. These are claims that have long been used to persecute the Jewish community and immensely harmful. Though she has now deleted this specific post, other content on her website is barely different. She endorses and hosts on her website a 12-hour neo-Nazi propaganda documentary that contains Holocaust denial and very clear anti-Semitism, for example. Someone who promotes such damaging ideas should not be given a platform in Stroud. It would not be good enough for the organisers to claim they did not know about the background of their speakers, but they have been presented with them. It is utterly inexcusable for them to continue now they have been made aware of these details.

How we deal with Covid-19 can and should be debated. The government’s guidance and laws are often confusing. How well they apply advice from experts in public health can be reasonably discussed. Even the less severe measures – like wearing masks, and keeping our distance from each other – feel uncomfortable and onerous. National lockdowns are extremely restrictive, and the World Health Organisation only recommends them as a last resort. The impacts in terms of unemployment, poverty, and on local businesses – here and globally – cannot be ignored. Neither can loneliness and the strain on people’s emotional and mental health. There needs to be much more attention, investment and action on these issues. It’s essential that our community can discuss these problems, support each other, and come up with solutions together. Claiming the virus itself is not real or is being exaggerated as part of a ‘new world order’ conspiracy doesn’t help

We could consider the organisers of the planned rally as ridiculous cranks. But Covid-19, climate change, poverty, and racism are all serious. They affect every person in our community to varying degrees.

Though we will respect new national lockdown restrictions and therefore not hold a gathering to counter the event, we wish to make our opposition clear. We ask people considering attending to please think about who you will be empowering, and the ideas you will be bolstering, by doing so. We call on the organisers to withdraw these invitations.

James Beecher

Jeremy Green

Laura Rowan

If you would like to add your name to this statement, please email stroudrrg@gmail.com.

Signatories: 

Rachel Sleigh

Sarah Dixon

Natasha Wilson

Nick Turner

Francis Barton

David Drew

Helen Elliott-Boult

Amplify Stroud

Stroud Against Racism

Eleanor Salter

Caroline Molloy

Rachel Curley

Nick James

Mar Plowman

Natasha Josette

Hannah Basson

Ade Blair

Jamie O’Dell

Sarah Phaedre Watson

Tosca Cabello-Watson

Ruth Schamroth

Jo McAndrews

Carole Oosthuysen

Brian Oosthuysen

Laurie Davies

Megan Sheer

Miriam Yagud

Melissa Briggs

Stuart Butler

George Shaw

Simon Pickering

Sally Pickering

Robin Layfield

Jessie Hoskin

Sharon Gimpel

Eva Ward

Mark Huband

Georgia Boon

Steve Hynd

Selva Romero

Natalie Davenport

Polly Stratton

Shani Wills

Simon Jacobsen

Lynn Haanen

Sylvia Pearson

Stephanie Franklin

David Michael

Mary Hannah Moss

Emily Joy

Pammy Michell

Bob Hilliard

Paul Shevlin

Norman Kay

Wanda Lozinska

Catherine Braun

Chris Fry

Alan Sage

Gail Bradbrook

Garry Strudwick

Molly Scott Cato

Ruth Laidler 

Peter Nightingale

John Bloxsom

David Joyce

Aron Kyne

Jackie John

Helen Bell

Peter Inglesham

Eva Goddard

Jacky Martel

Rob Green

Ben Welbourn

Mary Holmden

Tasha Goddard

Michael Cooksley

Nicole Golding

Gareth Kitchen

David Pugh

Anna Bonallack

Hannah Prothero

Alex Raeburn

Mark Rogers

Anne Snelgrove

Den Donnelly

Sarah Lunnon

Michaela Porter

Carole Worley

Angela Paine

Martin Whiteside

Joy Greenwood

Nathanael Roome

Sue Hunt

Adrian Oldman

Nick Mills

LJ Bown

Oonagh Ryder

Paul Roberts

Charlotte Levene

Valerie Randell

Nic Hill

Emily Harper

Fran Mosley

Alice Lovegrove

Max Neckles

Teresa Vance

Jenny Nixon

Jo Rayner

Mary Omnes

Lindsey Davis

Jacqui Harding

Jennifer Skillen

Sarah Barfield

Steve Hartley

Rich Lee

Dilly Williams

Jagdish Patel

Alison Watkins

Susan MacLellan

Jude Woodyer

Emma Ordonez

Kerry Curtis

Denise Needleman

Peter Olsen

Fred Barker

Sarah Millar

Emma Soble

Ann Shaw

Judith Jackson

Pat Olsen

Catriona Bracker

Tarra Gilder-Rai

Elizabeth Giles

Shelley Tester

James Olsen

Tori Tipping

Katherine Kearns

Jenny Barton

Kate Cole

Lisa Beattie

Judi Gardner

John Downer

Matthew Channelle

Meredith Debonnaire

Angie Hill

Elizabeth Russell

Peter Nelstrop

Helena Petre

Sally-Anne Wherry

Kerry Richard

David Alcock

Tim Phillips

Eva Karia

Helen Bojaniwska

Emily Finch

Sandi Beecher

Tanya de Weymarn

Sarah Warden

Jennie Thomas

Crispin Thomas

Sebastian Billing

Luke Coleman

Jamila Gavin

Hilary Burgess

Elizabeth Bavister

Vanessa Hedley

Suzanne Airey

Anthony Hentschel

Linda Chance

Fred Chance

Sue Oppenheimer

Lynne Cain

Natalie Lee

Andrew Paterson

Heidi Wicks

Paul Scully

Cosmo Thompson

Julian Peacey

Neil Buick

Peter Furtado

Daisy McGrath

Emily Seffar

Samuel Jackman

Lisa Hall

Susie Boyle

David Hudson

Ron Birch

Lisa Taylor

Carole Child

Hannah Wade

Dan Hornwag

Katie McCue

Danny McCue

Joe Reeve

Olivia Cait Raeburn Dick

Carole Bruce

Kevin Cranston

Gayle Clay

Dianne Bradshaw

Felicity Warden

Ruth Davey

Sarah Frazer 

Imogen Shaw

Laurence Cox

Laura Jerram

Julia Godden

Katey Paradine

Lizzie Fletcher

Caroline Harmer

Clare Hudman

Claire Levy

Ann Furtado

Davey MacGregor

Sam Gowing

Pam Paradise

Diana Simon

Michael Murray

Neil Harris

Alison Ashton

Kate Dryer

Lorraine Trowers

Margaret Lear

Adrian Manning

Laura Perrin

Michael Sheldon

Sue Edgley

Philip Booth

Lidia Cabello 

Rebekah Allan

Noel Sharp

Annabel Richmond

2 comments

  1. With respect, I hear your concerns, but am sad that the judgmental labelling of people you do not even know as ” ridiculous cranks” is only causing further division and not helping the Stroud community to work towards finding positive solutions to this tragic situation.
    We now need to transcend our personal issues and keep our hearts open to each other. The removal of our freedoms, based on a questionable test never designed for diagnosis and exaggerated “evidence” & forecasts has traumatised the citizens of this country. People need to express their distress and peacefully and responsibly express their feelings. Demonising each other will never help us to resolve issues. I doubt that anyone who feels vulnerable will attend this rally, so using emotive language about risking others is not appropriate. We must each look within to ask ourselves why we are triggered by this situation and be honest.
    A “holier than thou” attitude is bound to potentially cause more conflict. People are AFRAID! Our basic freedoms are being eroded rapidly for an illness which is way down on the list of possible causes of death and decreasing. Yes, we are experiencing a seasonal, normal increase.( 17,330 people died of respiratory infections in winter 2017/18) Please let us hear each other. It is psychologically healthy and right to express, in a responsible way, the fears and dangers of the collective.
    This is an opportunity to move beyond old dualistic paradigms of duality, right/ wrong, “crazy”/ sane, and evolve as human beings. The right wing and the left wing are both needed by the bird.
    I am deeply concerned about the collective mental health of our fellow humans having lived experience of a child who has suffered & knowing people who have died by suicide. I am a qualified nurse, bereavement counsellor and work for the Royal college of Psychiatrists, & trained in Non- violent communication.
    I believe labelling any other human is wrong, as we all are carrying personal and collective intergenerational trauma. If we cannot truly listen to each other and try to understand the other’s narrative there is no hope of resolution and evolution. Krishnamurtuti said- ” it is no measure of good health to be adaptive to a sick society ” To repress expression of deep trauma and fear is just delaying a possible future mental crisis, or violent response . Lancing a boil is an important intervention & analogy for for releasing pent up emotions in this situation. We have no right to “cancel”, gag or suppress peaceful communication.
    I know, like and respect many of you on both ” sides” and support all views. I trust that respectful acknowledgement of each other, no matter how difficult that may be, is the way forward , and for our personal and collective growth.
    May we work together towards health on all levels and freedom to live and enjoy our lives fully.
    With respect and appreciation for you all,

    Louise Maclellan

    Like

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