Anti-vaccine-passport protesters storm ITN studios

Demonstrators ‘issue demands’, threatening to return ‘next week with double the numbers’

Andy Gregory
Monday 23 August 2021 22:09
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Protesters storm ITN building in London

Anti-vaccine protesters have infiltrated the London headquarters of ITN, the company that produces ITV News and Channel 4 News, marking the latest incident in which coronavirus vaccine sceptics have begun to direct their ire – often fomented online – towards members of the media.

Scores of demonstrators occupied the reception of the building on Gray’s Inn Road on Monday afternoon, having gathered as part of what appeared to have been billed as an “anti-health-passport” rally.

Footage broadcast on social media showed police officers lining the entrance to the studios, as journalists watched from further within the building while the protesters occupied the foyer. One clip showed brief, minor scuffles between police and demonstrators.

Veteran Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow could be seen arriving outside the building, and was shouted at by protesters as he made his way inside. Chay Quinn, a journalist with the Press Association news agency, reported being “harassed by a guy with a megaphone for wearing a mask and filming the protest”.

ITN said that “staff, including those working for ITV News, Channel 4 News and 5 News, have been advised to either stay in the building or stay away while the situation is being dealt with”.

A demonstrator with a megaphone was filmed shouting a list of “demands” – including for “a mainstream live debate between two representatives of each side on all aspects of the novel coronavirus”, and for news channels to broadcast a “weekly list of all the adverse reactions” to vaccines. His complaint that Covid vaccine sceptics had been dubbed “conspiracy theorists” was met with a shout of: “Conspiracy realists, that’s what we are.”

One man could later be heard saying that the protesters had emailed their list of “demands” to ITN, claiming that the company had “a week to respond or we’ll be back next week with double the numbers”.

The demonstrators were filmed leaving the building just before 3pm. Metropolitan Police later told The Independent that no arrests had been made.

Half an hour later, the demonstrators had gathered outside Google’s offices in St Pancras, where police officers were guarding the entrance. One protester could be heard shouting, “You talk to the f****** Taliban, come out and talk to us,” as others complained of “censorship”.

Minutes later, the crowd began to chant, “You can stick your poison vaccines up your a***,” and “We are the 99 per cent.”

Nearly 90 million vaccine doses have now been administered in the UK, according to Public Health England data.

While all vaccines and medicines have some side effects, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in its most recent update that “the overwhelming majority” of adverse reactions which have been reported “reflect the normal immune response triggered by the body to the vaccines”, adding: “They are typically seen with most types of vaccine and tend to resolve within a day or two.”

The protest comes just a fortnight after anti-vaccine protesters attempted to storm a studio at BBC Television Centre in west London.

However, while the White City building served as the headquarters of BBC News until 2013, the studios now housed there are used to produce programmes such as ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Lorraine, while much of the complex has been converted into residential apartments. Some among Monday’s crowd of protesters appeared erroneously to believe that they had stormed the offices of the Daily Mail.

Commenting on the footage of protesters shouting at staff, journalist Nadine Batchelor-Hunt said: “I love how unbothered Jon Snow is, but I hate that this keeps happening to journalists just going about their business – it’s scary, and dangerous for democracy.”

Marianna Spring, a specialist reporter at the BBC covering disinformation and social media, reported that several of those present at the ITN studios on Monday had featured in a report of hers for Newsnight.

“In it they called for journalists and ministers to be hanged for their involvement in nefarious plots,” Ms Spring said.

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