Artists have accused authorities of double standards after they were denied permission to protest due to COVID-19 rules, while larger, uncontrolled gatherings were allowed to proceed without sanction.

Ħamrun Spartans were crowned Maltese football champions on Thursday and several photos and videos uploaded on social media showed fans partying into the night, huddled close and not wearing facemasks. 

In a post on Facebook, the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association contrasted those scenes with a photo of an empty hall with spaced out seating, which they intended to use for the sit-down protest that was denied a permit.

“Two weights, two measures,” the lobby group wrote.   

Under current COVID-19 rules, gatherings of more than six people in public are forbidden. 

Ħamrun fans celebrate on Thursday.

MEIA president Howard Keith Debono expounded on that message in a social media post of his own.

Debono said that it was clear that Ħamrun had the police and the authorities’ approval to celebrate, as several videos and photos showed members of the force looking on as the street party was taking place.

Moreover, the main road in Ħamrun was closed off to traffic before the celebrations began, he said – an indication that the event was expected – and the celebrations were transmitted live by the national broadcaster on TVM2.

“Just two days ago the MEIA received a letter objecting to its plans for a controlled, limited, safe and seated demonstration. Why is our industry being discriminated against,” he asked.

He pointed out it seemed more likely that illegal activities are allowed while those which are organised are not.

“The wrong message is being given and irreparable damage is being made. This is completely illogical,” he said adding that the industry deserved much better.

Larger-scale events can start being held as of July 5, provided they abide by strict rules and restrictions announced last month.

Organisers say the rules are overly restrictive and make it financially unfeasible to organize the majority of events. 

The Ħamrun celebration is the latest in a string of spontaneous mass gatherings that authorities have turned a blind eye to: others include hundreds of people grouping together at St George's Bay and a large crowd that gathered in Gozo to welcome the arrival of record-breaking swimmer Neil Agius.      

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