Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Home Secretary Priti Patel call out behaviour of ‘mob’
Anti-vaxx protesters who stormed a Covid-19 testing centre have been condemned by ministers, with health secretary Sajid Javid branding their behaviour “vile”.
Both Javid and home secretary Priti Patel piled criticism on the “mob” that marched on the Milton Keynes NHS facility shouting abuse – one of whom stole testing equipment before binning it.
Javid said he was “appalled” by the “vile behaviour” of the dozens of demonstrators who were filmed entering the site on Wednesday, while Patel labelled the scenes “completely unacceptable”.
Footage showed staff at the Milton Keynes site sheltering in cabins as the rabble – including several carrying placards – massed at the site, some shouting “murderers” and “cowards”. It was not clear whether the protesters mistakenly believed the site to be a vaccination centre, as their anger appeared to be predominantly directed at Covid jabs rather than testing. Covid vaccines approved for use in the UK have been declared safe.
Elsewhere in Milton Keynes at the so-called “Freedom Rally”, Piers Corbyn – brother of former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn – was pictured addressing protesters who were said to have forcibly entered a theatre foyer during a matinee performance. Milton Keynes Theatre issued a statement on Twitter, calling out the protesters – saying “we rebuke the actions taken that saw our staff and patrons frightened and assaulted”.
Former deputy leader of the far-right For Britain Movement, Jeff Wyatt, was also filmed addressing a crowd in the town at the protest.
On Thursday, Javid tweeted: “I was appalled to see Piers Corbyn and his mob threaten NHS test and trace staff who are working so hard to keep people safe. This kind of vile behaviour is unacceptable.”
Patel, who said she was being kept updated by Thames Valley police, also wrote on Twitter: “It is more important than ever that people have their vaccinations and booster jabs and it is completely unacceptable that conspiracy theorists are intimidating and harassing those administering tests or delivering the life-saving vaccine programme. The police have my full support to take swift action where necessary.”
As of Wednesday, Thames Valley Police – which confirmed it was looking into the incident – had not made any arrests. It said: “We are aware of an anti-vaccination protest in Milton Keynes today. We’re currently reviewing the activity for any criminal offences and will take swift action if any have been committed.” The force has been approached for an update by The Independent but did not respond by the time of publication.
Some other regional forces said they were working in partnership with local authorities and the NHS regarding security arrangements and testing and vaccination sites, and were keeping them “under constant review”. It is understood that counter-terrorism security advisers have been offering advice on protective measures to vaccine centres since the start of the Covid immunisation programme.
During a series of clips circulated on social media, demonstrators are heard at the testing centre chanting “shame on you, shame on you”. One protester shouted the false claim, “every vaccine is a death”.
A demonstrator is also caught bellowing, “we are peaceful, you’re killing people,” before another adds: “You can stick your f*****g vaccine up your arse.” Amid the sounds of blaring horns, staff were also accused of being complicit to “genocide”.
In one piece of footage, a woman is seen removing a box of testing equipment from the site, smiling as she marches away with it. In another clip, she is cheered by protesters as she dumps the contents in a bin.
A separate film shows a grey haired man hurling a traffic cone at a marquee set up to administer tests before clumsily pushing a sign to the floor.