The anti-containment movement is still going strong
JAM FOR FREEDOM comes out of the covers of Oasis and Bob Marley, but the group also has a political mission: to oppose the blockages of covid-19. Young and racially diverse crowds gather to sing “We are the 99%”, its hymn. “Stick your poisonous vaccine in the ass,” the lyrics say. The chorus “99%” is borrowed from Occupy, a leftist movement. But between songs, some fans shout “Free Tommy”, a reference to Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defense League, a right-wing group.
Throughout the pandemic, blockade opponents have staged hundreds of protests, many of which are motivated by a conspiracy theory also popular in America: this covid-19 was rigged to provide an excuse for systematic regime change. Groupings include Stand Up X (who accuses Bill Gates, a billionaire philanthropist, of putting microchips in vaccines) and Teachers Against Abuse (set up to “protect children from the dangers and abuse of the covid regime”). On June 26, several thousand protesters marched through London, and a crowd chanted curses outside the home of Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer.
In America, the Covid-19 conspirators have been backed by Donald Trump as president. In Britain, they are counter-cultural. A June 14 poll by YouGov found 71% of English adults were in favor of extending the lockdown, with just 24% against. Vaccines are also very popular. About 85% of adults have had a first injection and 63% a second.
The postponement of “Freedom Day,” which was supposed to see lockdown restrictions lifted almost entirely on June 21, has likely been a boon to protesters. One said he was surprised by the number of vaccinated people who joined, either because they wanted to get back to normal or because they had worried about possible side effects since they were stung.
The protests attract both the anarchist left and the anti-establishment right. Piers Corbyn, brother of Jeremy Corbyn, the former far-left Labor leader, shared platforms with David Kurten, formerly a member of the United Kingdom Independence Party, a populist party that campaigned for Brexit, and now leader of the the right. Heritage Day. Activists united around “freedom”, discussing John Locke and Ayn Rand. Many mistakenly cite the Magna Carta, a royal charter from 1215, as proof that government blockades are illegal. Some write an oath of allegiance to a baron in Scotland, which they say frees them from having to follow the laws.
Many want their movement to turn into a libertarian opposition to the “Great Reset”. It’s the name given by the World Economic Forum, the organization that hosts an annual talkfest for the big and the good of the world in Davos, Switzerland, to the technocratic measures it advocates to tackle emerging global issues. Its proposals include digital ID passes and policies to tackle climate change. Some are considering campaigning for a school voucher system, so parents can save their children from government indoctrination. A member of Jam for Freedom claims the group aims to become “the alternative to the satanist pedophiles who run Hollywood.”
Protest movements survive when activists form close friendships. These opposing blockades had to regroup, explains an activist, because they were “attacked by their friends and their family, just for having thought critically”. Another says he has become close to people on the far left and far right, as well as feminists who “write about patriarchy, something that doesn’t interest me”. Even if the deadlock loosens, he insists, political barriers will not rise, due to a “growing understanding that something more important is happening” that must be opposed. “Ideological differences become relatively minor in the presence of extensive cover-up,” says Noam Yuchtman of the London School of Economics. “It makes you feel like you are part of a super important club.” ■
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This article appeared in the Great Britain section of the print edition under the title “Opposites Attract”