A cafe owner in a park in Hastings says anti-lockdown protests on Sunday mornings have forced the business to delay its opening time until the illegal gatherings are over.
Yesterday there was a heavy police presence in the park following the events of a week ago when a crowd gathered to dance the Hokey Cokey.
Sussex Police told Hastings In Focus: “About 30 people who had gathered in Alexandra Park, Hastings, on Sunday morning were required by police to leave as a Dispersal Order was in place.
“Officers engaged with those present explaining the government’s coronavirus regulations and the reason for the dispersal order and encouraged people to leave.
“Four people, a man and three women, were issued with fines for failing to comply with the Covid regulations. One of the women was also arrested for assaulting a police officer and one was also arrested for failing to provide details. All the group had left the park by midday.”
It’s understood that last week’s events and those thought to have been planned for yesterday which prompted the police intervention were part of a campaign of protests by the anti-lockdown movement ‘A Stand in the Park’.
The international movement Stand In The Park which began in Australia urges people to put on yellow clothes or jackets and stand in a designated local park every Sunday between 10am and 11am for ‘Personal Truth and Freedom in Unity’. Alexandra Park in Hastings is one of a number of locations nominated by the protest group and publicised on its social media accounts.
One observer on facebook said of the police presence: “Hastings police did a great job. They engaged with the group and reminded them of the lockdown rules and persuaded them to move on.” While another wrote: “…the police are totally in wrong here.”
Meanwhile the team behind the Eat At The Park cafe in Alexandra Park accuse members of the gathering of: “Mocking the sacrifices we have all made over the past year and risking the progress made.”
In a social media post on Sunday, the managers of the café that normally opens at 9am said they wanted ‘no part’ in illegal protests that could risk the spread of the disease.
Part of the protests have generally included performance of a synchronised dance routine in which, in a previous week, members of the public were seen to take part while holding hands.
The Eat At The Park statement on social media says: “Following saddening scenes in Alexandra Park this morning eat@thePark cafe will now be opening later on Sundays for the foreseeable future.
“It seems that there is a vocal and rather agitated minority of people who consider the right to dance the ‘Hokey Cokey’ to be a priority over working together to reach the end of the current Coronavirus restrictions, and we wish to be very clear that we will have no part of this.
“In addition, we feel we are unable to guarantee the wellbeing of our law-abiding staff and customers while those intent on promoting their rather incoherent range of messages continue to meet so near our premises.
“In these times where we all seem to have to take a stance on every issue, we would like our closure to be our comment on this particular group or groups, and not on other recent protests.
“We consider these ‘Hokey Cokey’ gatherings to be unlike others in a number of regards – they are designed solely to breach regulations regarding social distancing and safety, the organisers do not request to work with the police or authorities – in fact, the very opposite – and the protests are organised in secret rather than on public forums, meaning that it is difficult to know what might happen.
“We share the concerns of many regarding recent legislation regarding the right to protest but feel very strongly that these particular events do nothing but provide a justification for those wishing to strengthen anti-protest laws.
“As they appear to be for the purpose of protesting and actively defying coronavirus restrictions, we consider them to be mocking the sacrifices we have all made over the past year and risking the progress made.”