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‘Waste of taxes!’ Sussex police arrest man for serving free soup in local park (VIDEO)

‘Waste of taxes!’ Sussex police arrest man for serving free soup in local park (VIDEO)
Police in East Sussex have arrested a local man for handing out free soup in a park, insisting the charitable act violated pandemic policy by gathering more than two people outdoors. Meanwhile, real crime in the UK still climbs.

Nick Smith was arrested last Tuesday in an East Sussex park, allegedly for violating Covid-19 regulations while distributing free soup. Smith has distributed soup in the park on a weekly basis, and plans to continue his work “every Monday through lockdown.”

Police reportedly invited Smith to the scene on Tuesday based on an anonymous report on Monday of a “regular gathering where social distancing was not being observed and masks were not worn.”  While he followed the officers' orders in meeting them at the park, he refused to give his identification papers so that they could fine him £200 for disobeying Covid-19 regulations. He also declined to give his contact details.

Is this really essential?” he asks, referring to what has become a politically-charged term regarding who is permitted to operate during the pandemic and who isn’t. 

Police attempted to justify their actions as they explained to Smith what was going on – an action that may have made matters worse. “What was captured on body worn video is a clear breach of the coronavirus legislation,” one officer lectured Smith as he and his partner prepared to arrest the man. “We’re looking at participating in a gathering of more than two people in a public outdoor place.” 

Smith argued he was following a separate set of orders applicable to charitable volunteers, not the general public. However, despite the unsettling content of the videos, they remained largely unseen until earlier this week.

Sussex police confirmed the arrest to local media and continued to defend their officers’ actions, noting that anyone providing a “takeaway service” must “complete a risk assessment and adhere to government guidance including social distancing and hygiene measures.”

Onlookers took a dim view of the harassment. One can be heard on the video objecting to the arresting officer’s use of handcuffs, wondering aloud “Is he that dangerous that you have to handcuff him? You don’t have to handcuff him, he’s compliant.” 

Another praised Smith’s soup-cooking prowess, while a third argued that the benefits of gathering outdoors to eat with one’s fellow humans far outweighed the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Most who saw the video found the police officers’ behavior abhorrent, especially given that the UK is in the midst of a multi-year crime spree. “Your role is to serve and protect the community,” a woman tells the officers accusingly, triggering the officer to insist he is protecting the community… by enforcing the Covid-19 regulations. The woman holding the camera described the scene as an “abuse of power” and a “waste of taxes.”

Just making soup and giving it out on a Monday. That’s it. That’s all he’s done.

Others said that while there was always an officer on hand to arrest a mask scofflaw, real problems like drugs and financial scams were going unaddressed.

UK authorities have promised to hire 20,000 more officers in return for getting crime totals down by at least 20 percent – a steep goal amid an unprecedented economic recession. 

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