• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Covid Conspiracy Rally Embarrasses Anti-Restriction Activists

Last week’s Covid conspiracy rally at Trafalgar Square – where NHS workers were compared by Kate Shemirani to Nazi war criminals executed after World War 2 – is now apparently something of an embarrassment to some activists against anti-Covid restrictions.

First up, James Melville (who incidentally has just settled a libel claim after recklessly promoting a child sex abuse smear sourced from a fringe-right website), who posed with a group of friends at the rally for a photo that can be seen here. He has now repudiated his attendance, using Twitter:

I denounce those appalling comments at that rally. I thought it would have been an anti vaccine passports march and I soon realised that it wasn’t and went to the pub. I have no time for comments like that. [here]

I attended a rally (naively thinking it would be a march against vaccine passports) in London last weekend and I was appalled by some of the extremist views issued by the speakers. I condemn such repugnant messaging and as always, I have absolutely no time for extremism. [here]

The first Tweet above appeared several days after the rally; he explained that he was unable to say anything sooner because he had lost his phone and couldn’t remember his Twitter password. It is difficult to see how it was that Melville was caught unawares; advertising for the rally made it very clear who would be speaking, with David Icke second only to Vernon Coleman as top of the bill (see below). The only unadvertised speaker was Katie Hopkins, who became available at short notice due having been deported from Australia after boasting about her non-compliance with quarantine rules.

Two public figures who were not there but had Tweeted supportive comments have also quietly backed away. Laurence Fox did so by RTing the first tweet in a thread by someone named James Townsend arguing that the organisers “got it badly wrong in London”, with speakers who “are not going to engage the mainstream public”. Meanwhile, Maajid Nawaz, who had Tweeted in “solidarity” with the rally on 24 July, interviewed Sebastian Shemirani, the estranged son of Kate Shemirani, on his LBC radio show. As advertised by LBC:

Sebastian Shemirani’s mother Kate was videoed in Trafalgar Square spouting conspiracy theories and threats at an anti-vaccine passport rally. He tells Maajid Nawaz his mother is ‘too far gone to change her mind’ on the misinformation she believes.

This reads as if Kate Shemirani was some weird outlier, when in fact her rhetoric was representative of the event as a whole and received enthusiastically by the crowd.

Nawaz’s 24 July “solidarity” Tweet had included a video clip of the crowd singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, but despite this attempt to make the event appear innocuous he apparently didn’t notice or care that the camera panned across to show David Icke conducting from the stage – somewhat incongruous content given Nawaz’s “counter-extremism” credentials.