Barry Gardiner MP defends attending Black Lives Matter rally and apologises for breaking social distancing rules

Labour MP Barry Gardiner. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA. - Credit: PA

Barry Gardiner MP has defended attending a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park saying a test revealed he was not a Covid-19 carrier.

The Brent North Labour MP joined thousands of others on Tuesday to condemn the death of African-American George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer in America.

He tweeted at the time: “Been social distancing since March. Today I broke it to join the #BlackLivesMatter demo outside Parliament and take a knee with thousands of brave young people calling for Justice.”

But Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, told Sky News on Thursday (June 4) that his attendance was “dangerous” and that he should “acknowledge” his mistake.

“I don’t think it was right. I think it was quite dangerous to break the social distancing measures... and I think it was wrong for a member of parliament to be out there overtly saying they were not going to observe social distancing measures,” said the Labour MP.

She added: “I hope he has reflected on that and decided to correct that, because we can’t give the impression that social distancing at this stage doesn’t matter.

“He’s not on the front bench anymore, so I think the best thing to do would be for him to acknowledge he got that wrong and correct it.”

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Some 12,900 people responded to Mr Gardiner’s tweet both condemning and praising his actions.

On Thursday he apologised to the public on his blog “for the hurt my failure to observe the rules has caused”.

He explained: “On Tuesday evening I received a negative test result. I am therefore confident that I did not infect anyone with whom I came into contact.

“I know I had an obligation to set an example. The rules are important in overcoming this epidemic and I do not want my action to undermine people’s willingness to maintain social distancing.

“My obligation as an MP is also to call out racial injustice and to stand in solidarity with the very people who, because of that injustice, are so much more likely to die from coronavirus.

“The anger generated by my breach of the social distancing rules must not be allowed to detract from the vital message that Black Lives Matter and that we all have an obligation to fight racism.

“The killing of George Floyd must be a catalyst for action.”