Vans with loudspeakers out in parks telling people not exercising to ‘go home’

The van with a loudspeaker in Finsbury Park. Picture: @StokeyUpdates

The van with a loudspeaker in Finsbury Park. Picture: @StokeyUpdates - Credit: Archant

Vans with loudspeakers were out in Haringey’s parks over the bank holiday weekend telling people to “go home” if they were not exercising.

The council tested the enforcement action in Finsbury Park on Good Friday, and said it worked so well it then rolled it out to others.

The message from the speakers was: “You should only be here for exercise. If you’re not, then please go home.”

Park staff were following the van to explain to people what they were doing. Posters and signs have been put in parks about the two metre social distancing guidelines.

It comes after journalist Michael Segalov posted on Twitter about an incident in which police were removing a young woman from Finsbury Park because she was apparently not exercising.

He began filming on his phone and was told by police to go home. One officer, who repeatedly identified himself as Sgt Gary Brown, told him: “You’re killing people”. Mr Segalov said officers broke social distancing guidelines by approaching him and has made a complaint to the Met.

Some have criticised the tough measures in parks, arguing they are important for people without access to a garden and suggesting that as long as people are social distancing they should be allowed to sit in them.

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Earlier this month Brockwell Park in south London was closed temporarily and Victoria Park was closed indefinitely until a backlash saw it reopened by Tower Hamlets Council.

But Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said at a government press conference that even sitting in a park could encourage others to follow suit, resulting in crowds that make it easier for the virus to spread.

“If you are sitting on a park bench, people tend to accumulate – it is very difficult to prevent that,” Dr Harries said. “Having rules where we are getting all of the benefits and minimising the risks and harms is an important approach to maintain.”

Islington Council says it will not hesitate to close its parks if people do not adhere to social distancing and other rules including no sunbathing, picnics or barbecues.

Hackney has implemented the same measures, with sunbathers being moved on by police. It has also closed its outdoors gyms and play areas.

A spokesperson for Haringey Council said: “We are doing all we can to keep our parks open during the outbreak. As part of that, the van speakers – used in a number of Haringey parks – were really effective and were largely well-received.

“In line with government guidance, we would urge residents to only visit our parks for their daily exercise, and to stay at least two metres apart. Together we can support the NHS and save lives.”

A Met Police spokesperson said: “We can confirm a complaint has been received in relation to that interaction, which is currently being considered.”

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