Militant conspiracy theorists who likened schoolchildren strolling through the Meadows to the “Hitler Youth” for wearing face masks, are to be banished from the popular beauty spot.
The Edinburgh Resistance 2020 extremists – who vehemently criticise those taking Covid-19 precautions – targeted the two teenage girls as they walked nearby.
The youngsters – aged just 14 and 15 – were subjected to a torrent of negative comments before they were told that wearing a face mask was “akin to wearing a swastika”, the emblem of Nazi Germany.
Edinburgh City Council has now instructed park rangers to boot them out of the Meadows if they show up again and MSPs have also called for the group, called Edinburgh Resistance 2020, to be reported to the police.
The group has been seen several times on the Meadows with stalls displaying posters and flyers encouraging people not to wear masks or adhere to lockdown restrictions, and suggesting the Covid-19 pandemic is a fabrication of the government and media organisations.
The girls who were targeted last Saturday said they felt “threatened” by the 25 to 30 adults despite telling them they were under 18.
“Two people approached us and began verbally harassing us, saying that we were slaves to fear and telling us that we were like the Hitler Youth for wearing masks and that wearing a mask was akin to wearing a swastika or doing the Hitler salute,” they said.
“We felt a bit threatened because there was a large group of adults and two of us who are both quite small.”
The girls said they had initially approached them to discuss their protest.
“I just think you always have to stick up for what you believe in. They’re entitled to their own opinion but when that opinion can start to possibly endanger people I think that’s when you’ve got to say something,” one said.
“If people took what they were saying to heart it could endanger their lives.”
Edinburgh City Council confirmed that the group was not granted permission to set up stalls on the Meadows, and that park rangers will take action if they return.
Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson described the behaviour as “completely wrong” and urged anyone encountering them to call Police Scotland.
Miles Briggs, the Conservative Lothian MSP, added: “People have the right to protest, but if young people are being intimidated and harassed for following official guidance and helping reduce the spread of coronavirus, then these conspiracy theorists should be reported to the police.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “At this time we are not aware of any incidents involving this group, however, we have officers patrolling the Meadows on a regular basis and will continue to do so.
“We would encourage anyone who has any criminal concerns about the behaviour of others to approach those
officers or call police via 101. The Chief Constable has made it clear that we are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to stay safe, protect others and save lives by preventing the virus
from spreading.“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance. We will use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation.”
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