Earlier today, protesters gathered on Broad Street to stand against new transport plans in Oxford, which have proven to be highly controversial. The transport plans include proposals to block residential streets using bollards or planters to stop vehicles cutting through, and to set up six traffic filters to cut unnecessary journeys and make walking, cycling, and public and shared transport the preferred option. Protestors disagree with this, saying that the proposals to discourage driving are an infringement on freedoms and an attempt to control people.
The OxStu spoke to one of the organisers of the protest, who said: “We’re here to come together to say no to 15-minute cities, we’re here because we’re incredibly worried about the attack on our rights, the freedom of movement, and everything that comes from freedom of movement…Most people you speak to here are going to be all for a return to local economies. But this isn’t going to achieve that, it’s going to restrict people’s rights.”
Another protester, from Stand in the Park U.K., stated: “We’re obviously in opposition to this rollout of 15-minute cities and the implications of what that means when you are effectively locking people into zones in their own hometowns. It’s made to sound like this wonderful idea because it would be fantastic if we have all these nice little community hubs with amenities within close reach, but the actual reality of what this means is that you are being tracked and traced within your own town. You’re looking at having to have permits to leave the zone that you find yourself in.”
These comments reflect a sentiment frequently expressed by Reclaim Party leader, GB News presenter, and former actor, Laurence Fox, who was also at the protest. Fox has previously raised concerns that 15-minute neighbourhoods are part of a wider plan to control people, often including the push for people to get vaccinated as also being part of this plan. Oxford has become of particular interest to those who share these ideas due to these new transport plans, which have been seen as a great example of this ‘attack’ on freedoms. Many of these claims about the levels of control that people will be under have been exaggerated, as in reality, the traffic filters do not mean that people will be forced to remain in a zone against their will, they only restrict driving.
Police at the scene have been taking measures to ensure the protest goes ahead, with Thames Valley Police stating earlier that: “We anticipate large numbers of people will attend this event and as such, there is a possibility of some local disruption on the day.” The police also said they would “seek to ensure that the event is allowed to proceed peacefully”, and that they recognised the “strength of feeling and the important part that peaceful demonstrations play in society.”
Thames Valley Police have since commented that “our operational objectives were met and the day’s events passed largely in a peaceful manner, with the overwhelming majority of the thousands in attendance, co-operating with officers, while exercising their democratic rights.” Five arrests were made for public order offences, including two for failing to remove their facemasks. The force also thanked “the vast majority of those who attended and conducted themselves in a peaceful and lawful manner.”
With additional reporting by Rose Henderson
Image description: picture of the protest on Broad Street
Image credit: Anna Davidson for OxStu