Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

Want to see your friends? Call it a protest

[Getty Images]

I wonder exactly when we agreed that it is more of a priority to gather with strangers than to meet loved ones? You might chart a number of moments, but the presumption seems to have become fixed.

You might say that it started before the pandemic with the idea that truanting from school is worthy, even admirable, so long as it is done in opposition to climate change. Indeed as we learned this week, if you leave school for long enough then you may eventually have a statue erected to you in an English town known for its cathedral and school but not for its university. If you were an adult you could close down major cities, prevent newspapers from leaving the print-works and much more for the same cause. So long as you were saving the planet.

Once the coronavirus regulations came in all such protests went on hold. Only for it to turn out to be perfectly permissible to gather by the thousands so long as you were expressing support for ‘BLM’ and objecting to ‘racism’. Although the citizens of Bristol could not meet friends in a restaurant, it turned out they could meet at the town’s plinths, pull down the statuary and hurl it into the water. All while the Bristol police looked on passively. Because such actions never have repercussions.

As the months have gone by, other causes have come and gone as legitimate reasons for breaking lockdown, with better or worse justifications depending on your outlook. After the murder of Sarah Everard, plenty of people wanted to pay their respects to a murdered young woman. Soon those vigils became protests, and the police did their bit to make things worse. But the crucial thing is that whether you were on the side of the police or the protestors, everybody agreed that the protestors had the right to protest.

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