Rival protesters clash in Liverpool over ‘15-minute cities’ conspiracy claims - what are the theories?

Former Liverpool FC striker Rickie Lambert attended the demonstration and individuals dressed in balaclavas and dark clothing clashed.

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Hundreds turned out amid protests and counter protests held outside Liverpool Town Hall on Wednesday evening over widely debunked theories around how the city’s new neighbourhood model could infringe civil liberties.

Demonstrators were situated on opposite sides of Water Street in tense scenes before the meeting of the full Liverpool Council in the civic building. Banners and placards were held aloft while both sides chanted in the second public gathering over plans by the local authority to implement a new neighbourhood scheme.

Activists equipped with banners sought to air their grievances over theories around ‘15-minute cities’ and how the new 13 neighbourhood areas across Liverpool would infringe on their civil liberties.

With a beefed up police presence around the Town Hall and Water Street, campaigners played music and chanted as councillors stood in front of the main door of the building. Banners were held with slogans such as “say no to Liverpool 13 zones,” “climate change is a hoax” and “we do not consent.”

What is the 13 neighbourhoods plan? In July, Liverpool Council adopted a new model that will divide the city into 13 neighbourhoods, each led by a senior manager who will be permanently situated in the area. They will each work with departments across the council to highlight and tackle the key issues in the area, be it housing, waste management, potholes, parking, or anti-social behaviour.

What is a 15-minute city? It is an urban planning concept that proposes the redesign of neighbourhoods to ensure vital amenities are within easy reach.

An article co-written by Alex Nurse, Senior Lecturer in Urban Planning, University of Liverpool, explains: “ The concept, which originated from the French-Colombian urbanist Carlos Moreno, calls for city design that is centred on people and their needs rather than being designed for cars. The idea flourished in the wake of COVID, when lockdowns and working from home had more of us ditching the car and recognising the need for well-served local neighbourhoods.

“Yet this connection to how our towns and cities are changing in the wake of COVID is also probably the reason that 15-minute cities are now a hot-topic in the conspiracy world. Among other things, the charge sheet against 15-minute cities is that they are a “socialist”, or even “Stalinist”, attempt to control the population by actively preventing citizens from straying more than 15 minutes from their homes.”

The protester claims

  • Some campaigners said they felt they would be barred from leaving their designated areas under the scheme and ultimately fined for doing so. This is not true.
  • Another said: “We are not about left or right, it’s about our rights. We’re here for our children’s future and freedom.”
  • A number of speeches were made on loud hailers accusing councillors of being part of the “Labour communist party” and “selling out to the World Economic Forum” while being sold to Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
A placard held outside Liverpool Town Hall (Source: David Humphreys)A placard held outside Liverpool Town Hall (Source: David Humphreys)
A placard held outside Liverpool Town Hall (Source: David Humphreys)

The rally was attended by among others, Rickie Lambert, the former Liverpool FC striker, who had actively promoted the event on social media. Posting ahead of the meeting, Mr Lambert wrote: “People of Liverpool, start researching 15 minute city’s because they are coming our way very shortly if we allow it! WE DO NOT CONSENT!!!”

The protest remained largely peaceful, bar a brief scuffle as individuals dressed in balaclavas and dark clothing clashed.

After the council meeting got underway, demonstrators moved towards Derby Square outside the court buildings where speakers said it was a “battle” and they would be saved by God. One speaker, wearing The People’s Resistance hoodie, said “I know you will all be in the streets when they lock us down,” adding: “Your children and grandchildren will thank you… we are on the right side of history, they are wrong.”

Around 30 protesters gathered outside the Town Hall at the end of the council meeting, causing Lord Mayor Mary Rasmussen to advise members they would once again leave out of a side door for their own safety.

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