OFFICERS broke up an illegal gathering of “40 to 50” people at a Christian bookshop and tearoom, The Mustard Seed, in Gedling, on Sunday, Nottinghamshire Police reported. Two men were detained after refusing to give their details when fines of £200 were issued.
The owner, Chris Stala, has repeatedly refused to close during the current lockdown, as is the law for all non-essential shops.
A sign in the shop window refers to Magna Carta as a legitimate reason for remaining open. It states: “Under article 61 of Magna Carta 1215 we have a right to enter into lawful dissent if we feel we are being governed unjustly. Contrary to common belief, our sovereign and her government are only there to govern and not to rule us.”
Ms Stala told Premier Christian Radio on Monday that she had already had five police offers and an employee of the environment agency in her shop, last week, ordering her to close. She had refused and the shop had since been “absolutely full” of people supporting the business, she said.
Gedling Borough Council said that The Mustard Seed must close immediately or face further consequences. Councillor John Clarke told Nottinghamshire Live: “Our Environmental Health Team have issued a £1000 fixed penalty notice due to a failure to comply with the regulations set out by the Government.”
Chief Inspector Rob Shields of Nottinghamshire Police said: “Most people across the county have been playing their part in minimising the spread of the virus but sadly there remain a few people who refuse to adhere to our efforts to engage, explain and educate and consequently we will not hesitate to enforce the regulations.”
Also on Sunday, officers prevented a gathering of 30 people inside The Angel Church in Clerkenwell, north London. Police had been tipped off that a baptism service was being planned by the Pastor Regan King, despite places of worship being ordered by the Government to close during lockdown.
Police allowed 15 people to remain indoors as part of a support group, which is an official exemption for the use of church buildings. Pastor King was permitted to hold a smaller service outdoors, instead, though this is also currently illegal. He said: “We were told not to have a baptism, and police began to block people from entering the church; so we decided to make other arrangements. There were 20 people here initially and it built up to about 30.”
A Met Police spokesperson explained: “A brief socially-distanced outdoor gathering was held instead which was agreed to by officers as a sensible compromise in the circumstances.”