PUBLIC safety at protests was discussed as city councillors considered the post-Covid future.

As Oxford City Council's scrutiny committee met on Wednesday night, Green councillor Craig Simmons asked whether fellow committee members thought the council should have an official position on protests taking place during lockdown.

Mr Simmons said that there was 'no easy answer' to the issue of protests during lockdown, but added he had 'restrained himself' from joining recent protests in Oxford because he did not think it would be fair to endorse the government's messaging on social distancing while attending protests where this would not be possible.

Labour committee member Shaista Aziz said she thought there would be no benefit in adding extra guidance on top of the government's rules on social distancing.

She also raised the example of recent Black Lives Matter protests in Oxford, which she said had been organised with support from the police, with organisers giving out masks and hand sanitiser.

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Ms Aziz said: "I myself was not there because I am social distancing and I feel very strongly about that, but I also feel strongly that people are not on the streets for no reason."

She added that people from BAME communities who were 'facing the brunt of structural racism in the country' were also those facing the greatest danger from coronavirus.

She later said she felt it was unfair to single out BLM protests when crowds had gathered for other recent events during lockdown, like VE Day parties.

Mr Simmons said he did not mean to single out any particular protest, and said there had also been a recent protest by the cycling lobby and that other groups might also organise demonstrations during the summer.

The Green councillor's call for a city council statement on protests during lockdown was not taken up by the committee.

Council leader Susan Brown, who attended the committee to discuss the report on how to the council would recover from the pandemic said the council should respect the public's right to demonstrate.