Protesters took to War Memorial Park in Basingstoke on Monday afternoon to make a stand against the lockdown measures.

It has been five weeks since Boris Johnson imposed social distancing restrictions and closed down schools, pubs and play parks.

The vast majority of residents across the town have been adhering to measures.

However, this afternoon a group decided to flout the measures in a "protest for freedom". 

Here is what we know so far ...

Why were people protesting in War Memorial Park today?

Good question. Around 4pm, we received a couple of messages to our inbox on Twitter and Facebook about a gang of people ignoring the lockdown measures.

We sent our reporter Bethany down to the scene to observe from a safe distance away. 

She ran into a couple of protesters in Festival Place on her way down there. A woman, who asked not to be named, said she believed the number of Covid-19 deaths had been "exemplified" and said they didn't want to be kept inside.

She said they were protesting for their freedom which had been taken away by the restrictions. 

Is this an organised event or was it spontaneous?

The Gazette has discovered the group are a part of a movement called Save Our Rights UK and planned the event. The female protester told our reporter they are intending on carrying out the protest at War Memroial Park "every Monday at 2pm". 

The protester had even made a sign reading - "protect our freedom".

The protester said people had travelled from Hook, Farnborough and Basingstoke to take part.

She said: "This is our second week. We will protest until our rights are restored."

The group on Facebook has been urging other people to take protest action, despite the governent's restrictions.

What about the police's reaction?

The protestor told us the police were fine with their protest. She said: "Police came over to us but didn't object ss long as we didn't block the path and kept two metres apart."

However, when our reporter caught up with a police officer he said they were looking for the protesters and said they had breached a number of rules.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Why weren't they arrested?

The police officer said the protesters were now "at home" and had been spoken to about the incident, although no one was arrested. 

Basingstoke Cops took to Facebook to reassure the public that the group were "spoken to".

In the post, an officer wote: "In these unprecedented times, it’s important that we’re in this together and each and every one of us has a role to play by following government advice. The vast majority are following the advice, and we thank you for listening.

"However, for those who are not heeding the stay at home guidance, our officers will seek to engage, explain the circumstances and encourage you to do the right thing in complying with the government request. If considered necessary, we may take enforcement action by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice if you are putting others at risk.

"This evening officers provided advice and moved on a group from War Memorial Park, Basingstoke. Despite these reasonable steps, enforcement action has now been taken in Basingstoke Town Centre in relation to the same small group."

Basingstoke Gazette:

What did others make of this?

Understandably, many readers were upset to see people flouting the measures that they have been adhering too. One person who works at Basingstoke hospital said it was "outrageous". 

The NHS worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, has blasted the protesters as "out of order".

He said: "Why aren't these people being arrested? It’s out of order for people who have lost someone and NHS workers like me who leave their kids and families to work.

"This is outrageous to me and my colleagues."

Meanwhile, Councillor Michael Westbrook - whose Brookvale and Kings Furlong ward is on the border of War Memorial Park, said he was surprised to hear of the protest.

"I think the lockdown restrictions are in place for a reason," he said.

"I’m surprised to be honest, but I also understand the frustration. I’ve been indoors for eight weeks because it's the right thing to do. 

"It's surprising because I genuinely think people have been good, including young people.

"I’d be interested to know why they feel they haven’t got their rights. This is a global pandemic. People don't go through the furlough process just for the fun of it.

"You aren’t being forced to stay inside all day and most people are being sensible so this is a pretty frustrating thing."

Basingstoke Gazette:

Is this the first protest in the UK?

It's the first in Basingstoke and it doesn't look as though there have been many elsewhere yet, though Piers Corbyn - the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - lead a similar protest in Glastonbury over the weekend. 

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