Two men have been arrested at a Christian bookshop and tearoom after it refused to obey Covid-19 restrictions and remained open to customers. Police say that they attended 'The Mustard Seed' in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, on Sunday to break up a gathering of "40 to 50 people".
The owner of the business, Chris Stala, cited the Magna Carta - a 13th-century legal declaration that the monarchy and government are not above the law - as justification for keeping the premises open.
"I know that I'm standing on the Constitution of the country which is based on the 10 commandments, you know, that you love God above all and your fellow man and so they came and on the Friday and I had five policemen in my shop and and the woman from the
environment agency telling me I needed to close and I said no, I'm remaining open and so they tried to put a fine on me." Chris Stala told Premier.
Then on the Saturday we opened as normal. And this time I got overwhelmed with the support. You know, the shop was absolutely full of people just wanting to show their support. And again, the police came but this time, I'd got my trespass notice on so they couldn't come into the shop."
Nottinghamshire Police said that when they approached the scene, they noticed that the tearoom was "locked with a large number of people inside". Once inside, police ordered that the gathering be halted and detained two men who did not provide their details when officers attempted to fine them £200. "Two men refused to disperse and refused to give their details to be issued with fixed penalty notices so they were arrested," Chief Inspector Rob Shields confirmed.
Ms Stala, who believes the pandemic has been exaggerated, disputed the number of people in the store at the time and told Premier it was around 20.
According to a sign posted on the door of The Mustard Seed, the owners were simply "exercising their rights to earn a living".
"We have a right to enter into lawful dissent if we feel we are being governed unjustly," it read. "Contrary to common belief, our sovereign and her government are only there to govern us and not rule us. This must be done within the constraint of our common law and the freedoms asserted to us by such law."
Another sign in the window of the shop declared that "law-abiding men and women are permitted to enter as patrons," but "all corporate persons or Crown agents enter here as trespassers" and that "trespassers will be prosecuted".
Gedling Borough Council said that The Mustard Seed must close immediately or face further consequences.
Councillor John Clarke, leader of the council, told Nottinghamshire Live: "Following a visit to the Mustard Seed business this morning, our Environmental Health Team have issued a £1,000 fixed penalty notice due to a failure to comply with the regulations set out by government that non-essential businesses must close until December 3.
"The proprietor of the business has been told that they must now close the operation or face further enforcement action."
Chris Stala told Premier that she planned to stay open for people to gather for mental health support: "I've got four children, you know, four daughters. They're scared to death. And they're saying mum, just, you know, leave it leave it? How can I? You know, how can I not, you know. So what I have decided is yes, I'm open but I'm not trading."