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Eddy Ellwood: the man who made a difference
The muscle man who turned into a human rights champion due to Covid
The only interview I have ever conducted, but not immediately published, is one with Eddy Ellwood that I did at Easter of 2022. I was going through a lot myself at the time, and it was just a bit too provocative and resonant. The subject matter is the deliberate destruction of ordinary lives and small business through the barbaric “lockdowns” of 2020 and 2021. Last night I attended a preview showing of the new documentary film “Eddy: My Universe” that captures his transformation from a prizewinning Mr Universe bodybuilder into a noteworthy member of the freedom movement.
Eddy’s business and passion is his gym, Xtreme Fitness in Hartlepool, a small port town located on the County Durham coast. I went to Eddy’s home nearby, and sat in his kitchen, to hear his tale. He opened by telling me of one gym client who had committed suicide during the Covid lockdown. Eddy is adamant that this man would have been alive if his access to the gym had been maintained. The gym is a spiritual community and place of belonging, as much as it is about fitness. Its forced closure was devastating to vulnerable people recovering from trauma and addiction.
Many of us have stories of feeling something is amiss in our world, igniting our curiosity, and starting to question what is really going on. Eddy’s streetwise sense, no doubt honed as a former club doorman, looked at people like Bill Gates. He easily recognised that their motives were not pure. Eddy could tell that people were not dying of Covid, especially in younger age groups, despite the media hype. Official data on deaths from the period tells the same story: there was no pandemic threat to the young. Some of us “woke up” before Covid, but it was the mother of all scams that triggered a large new wave of people to reject the groupthink, including Eddy.
In order to make sense of the gym closure, you need to understand how Eddy is closer to being a pastor than a personal fitness trainer, although he might blush as the suggestion. He told me the story of phoning one client in the morning whom he was concerned about, getting no response, and chasing up in the afternoon onto to discover he had been “sectioned” (i.e. forcibly taken into psychiatric care). Eddy comes from a fighting background, and was a boxer before becoming a professional bodybuilder. He is very protective of his extended family who come to the gym. The structure and routine is a crucial support.
What “radicalises” many of us into freedom activists is not the initial observation of corruption and wrongdoing “out there”. Rather, it is the outright denial of truth and justice when we personally attempt to assert our civil rights. The lockdowns triggered Eddy to create a local “Make A Difference” (MAD) group, exercising their lawful right to protest against the cruel and tyrannical mass imprisonment of lockdown. A resistance gathering was help halfway to Newcastle, at an open air grass amphitheatre. It was a constant struggle to support each other through the dystopian nightmare.
Eddy saw the London protests on television. The police attacked lawful protestors against lockdowns, while Black Lives Matter activists could get away with anything. It was not a matter of skin colour or racism; the issue was why the police supported some political movements, and opposed others, in breach of their oaths and the law. The BBC’s cameras would turn up for some “approved” protests, and be conspicuously absent from others, despite huge attendance. What was on TV had little relation to events on the ground.
This dislocation between theory and reality started a process of legal research, and many of us have gone down the same path. Eddy looked at the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, which includes that of peaceful protest. Protestors have the right to wear masks or hoods and be anonymous. They have a right not to have their data collected. They have a right of peaceful assembly. They have a right to assemble for grievances. These rights apply to everyone, and everywhere.
There is no right for the authorities to prohibit protest. Public order and safety are not reasons to ban protests. That means even a Coronavirus pandemic (taken at face value) is not to be used as a pretext to prevent protests. So Eddy printed out the UN’s charter of rights, and laminated it, so he could bring it with him to meetings and protests where these fundamental rights were being asserted. Crimdon beach became a local gathering spot, as coming together at the seaside was one of the few remaining practical options.
The MAD group became Eddy’s obsession, and took over his life from July of 2020. He saw how gathering was encouraged in the summer by the “Eat out to help out” government subsidies for restaurants and bars. He observed how masks were introduced at the bottom of the infections curve, not the top. He noted how vaccines were introduced, only for cases to rise, not fall. The official story was clearly nonsense. It was imperative to keep together with others who saw through the lies, at places like Herrington Park.
At this point the police started to take more notice of these open air gatherings. A policewoman came to the door of one avid lady protestor. Then the “heavies” started appearing, notionally to observe only. The protestors were polite and civil, avoiding any adversarial behaviour. Then one meeting day, a protestor went for a run beforehand in the same park, and saw that there was a huge police presence waiting: three vans, five cars, with officers grinning inside. [As an aside, I am feeling the horror and trauma of that time return as I type: it is as if I have buried the painful memories.]
When Eddy came at the appointed time, he showed the police his laminated document with his rights under international treaty law. It was a very busy park, with two police vans to pass on the way in. He drove round the parked vehicles. Attendance was down from the usual 40+ people to just 13, as many were put off by the police, and walked elsewhere. Eddy parked next to a police car, where the liaison officers stood together in masks.
The policeman told Eddy that “It was been announced that only 6 can gather, and I am here to tell you that you have more than 6 gathering, which means we can arrest you. You can only meet with pods of 6 people who are socially distanced.” To which Eddy responded “I have the UN Articles that show I have a legal right to gather to protest”.
“I am not interested in your article.”
“But it says…”
“I am not interested!” — which remains the attitude of many police to the law.
Eddy had only just bought a megaphone, so used it to tell the others… “Get out of your cars — they can’t stop you. The police kneeled for BLM.” He is not a person to antagonise — the “muscle man” is sweet and sensitive in person — and he could see that they were seething through their masks at being challenged. The lack of equal treatment with BLM was what riled him. When he raised this, the police’s advice was that you had to be a registered political party to protest. Eddy was still a novice at fighting these battles, so not wishing to get arrested, he didn’t say any more, and left for that day.
So, on the Monday, he went online and registered a new party called MAD. He got in touch with Northumbria Police and Sunderland local authorities, and courteously let them know of the new political movement that would be assembling the next week. He quoted UN declaration’s Article 20 that said no conditions could be imposed on the right to protest, and it was above English human rights law. What he got back was a request: “Is it OK if we send someone to monitor your event?”
Two policemen came in one car, wearing lime green jackets. This prevented many people from participating: they were intimidated by the police’s visible presence. It was also a wet and cold early November — you cannot guarantee the English weather. Thus Eddy decided to offer his gym as a place to meet on Sunday afternoons, after it was closed, so they could chat over coffee and tea. He also began to attend the meetings in Cramlington, held on a similar basis at a children’s indoor play space after hours.
Then “Lockdown 2” was announced, so Eddy went back to his notes, which said that you have a right to peacefully protest indoors, as long as you are not trespassing. His gym windows were stickered up, so you could not see in, and his letterbox was sealed. It was a purely private venue. On advice from the civil rights group Liberty, he took pictures as evidence. He was determined that there would be no more suicides from those driven to despair from isolation. There was no justification for the authorities to claim that attendees were doing anything other than protesting.
When people came to the gym to meet, or use the equipment in protest at lockdown, there were 200 numbered slips to sign, saying they were coming only to protest. No payment was taken. This was to protect people who came, as they were now in a private members protest venue, not a public business. Then the police came, to fine people leaving. The venue was shut down before Eddy could give out all the slips. What he had, however, were the 65 email addresses of those who had come, and this saved him later on, as the repression escalated and he needed public support.
Eddy was taken to court for opening a business unlawfully during lockdown. His barrister didn’t use any of the evidence about his lawful right to protest, and how he had every attendee at the gym sign in to state that their reason for being there was to protest at lockdown. When Eddy tried to speak up in court, his own barrister shut him down. The judge did the same — “Don’t give me excuses now!”. [I am trying not to hit my keyboard too hard as I feel my anger rising, and await such people losing all their ill-gotten gains.]
Indeed, his lawyer didn’t fight his corner one iota. It was claimed Eddy was an unreliable witness, despite having never before been in court in his life, and having video evidence. He specifically had people say on camera they were only there to protest, which was dismissed as a “preposterous sham”. Those who came were accused of being friends acting as accessories, and used as excuse. The judge just blithely accepted whatever he was told by the council and police witnesses. The issue of gym attendees committing suicide was totally ignored.
The Council, from their initial letter in November 2020, were determined to close Eddy’s business. Eddy stated to them that the business is already closed and not trading. The staff were furloughed, and it was only open for mental health reasons. When you looked at the NHS statistics of people under age of 40 who died of/with Covid, and compared it to the suicide statistics, the latter was the real risk being three times higher. The average age of the protestor at his gym was 33.4 years of age. They were not a demographic suffering from Covid.
There was a clear divide of the over 40 versus the under 40 population. The over 40s comprised 99% of official Covid deaths. The under 40 only 1%. And of those who died with Covid, only 1% of those officially died of Covid. Even a Sun newspaper article told of the realistic health and risk profile. By the middle of January 2021, Eddy was done with the lies. The council came to visit him, but were caught behind a barrier. Not once was he personally arrested, or read his rights, or fined. His business remained shut under duress, but he continued to allow protests on site.
Eddy knew what he was doing was righteous — and they didn’t know how to attack him. In early February of 2021 he got his final prohibition notice, stating that he was going against government legislation. That it was a gym — a “hospital for mental health” — was irrelevant. They were blatently biased, and ignored the definition of a protest include the right to take an action, not merely to speak out. Using gym equipment, when peacefully done, is a fundamental right.
Eddy was subjected to a legal ambush, and dragged into court. The judge used eyebrow raising with the prosecution to signal his approval of their case, which is inappropriate. His behaviour was unprofessional and shameful, condemning the gym and its proprietor. As a result of his allowing lawful protest at his gym, not done in the pursuit of commerce, Eddy was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £25,507 costs plus a £181 surcharge, payable within 12 months.
A gym instills positive beliefs, and engenders determination and confidence. You are becoming someone, and belong to a group of people who seek to better themselves, even at a cost. The gym is their form of church for worship — not of the body itself, but of the values that loving self-care, health, and fitness represent. The Council has a duty under the Care Act 2014 to look after the wellbeing of the community. There is also a criminal defence of necessity, as long as the infraction was done to prevent a bigger crime or harm.
There are many rights in the UN declaration that apply here:
Article 18, on freedom of thought and conscientious objection. This includes the right to public or private belief, as well as to teach, practise, and worship.
Article 19, to hold opinions without interference.
Article 20, on peaceful assembly.
Article 30, on destruction of rights.
Eddy had every intention to go to court, and use their laws against them. What he didn’t reckon with was the kind of vendetta the state can wage against anyone who challenges their criminality.
Eddy was slapped with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO), with only 48 hours’ notice, which meant he lacked time to prepare for it. He was accused of ignoring prohibition notices. A notice was served to his son, who is a professional athlete, but not on the same page, to divide the family. His own lawyer described him in court as “fooked” — merely because of evidence of people training on equipment, regardless of intent. Both questions of law and fact were bypassed. Eddy was told that if he wanted to push the protest angle his lawyer would “defend it if you want me to” — but only reluctantly.
Eddy’s gym was served with a closure notice by the court, and would only be allowed to open up again once lockdown conditions were lifted — and the other side had pressed for an even more prolonged closure. The court ruled that it remained physically locked up, so you cannot do anything inside, not even lawful protest. Eddy suffered a month for the hell of it. They ignored the protections offered in law, such as protest dispersal powers must not be used in a way that targets peaceful assemblies. He lawyer told him he can’t use it.
Given the mental health and civil rights crisis, Eddy began to dig deeper. He saw how the House of Commons was ignoring its own human rights legislation with respect to Covid. Some communications from government were accurate, others were ambiguous and confusing, so as to create contention and chaos among those involved in enforcement of the law. It was clear that if you had a reasonable excuse to gather, you could not be directed to leave. The police were being asked to enforce unclear laws that interfered with basic human rights.
It became more obvious that there was no proper basis in law for the lockdowns and making protests effectively illegal. The arguments made in court against him were the opposite of what the law stated, and were highly subjective. They could only get away with it because the public were unsure of rights, and there was systemic discrimination in decision making. To elevate one health risk above all others was illogical and unethical.
The effects on Eddy were profound, being on a rollercoaster of emotion: “I know a lot of people in gym industry who took their lives in Lockdown 1, and I feel as though I am a conduit for it all. I know a lot of tortured souls who come through me to speak up, and are in a bad place. This cannot be allowed to happen again. I am a spiritual man, and other men come to me suicidal. I have to remind them that their mam doesn’t want them to kill themself, she wants them to let go of the pain.”
At this point, there were tears in Eddy’s eyes. The suffering that has been inflicted makes those buried feelings well up, and the grief comes out. Eddy is literally a “strongman” — you can look up the photos of him as a professional bodybuilder. The greatest weight he has ever lifted is the burden of carrying the sadness of those who were crushed under the tyranny of Covid. [I am an empath, and it has taken me 18 months to feel able to go back to this moment in time. It is still an emotional gut punch for me to refresh my memory of the evil and the hurt.]
I asked him what changes he wants to see.
Eddy realised that there was a lot of suffering in lockdown, and not just for the elderly. The majority of the suffering was in the young, who were a minority of UK population at risk — if there was a virus at all. Of the 13.1 million “at risk”, nearly all were old and with underlying conditions. Even then, they were not dying in large numbers. We sacrificed the young for a hypothetical benefit to the old. This is immoral.
The risk assessment should have taken into account the needs of all, and for all health conditions. Eddy knew the council would come after him, as Hartlepool has the highest reported Covid infection rate, but it is also the place where suicides are highest in the North East, being 11% above average. Mental health calls were 35% above normal. However, the concerns of young were completely ignored. They are the ones who need it for their welfare. We need to put them first.
The typical judge doesn’t train in a gym, so doesn’t understand what the gym means to those who do go. Eddy’s background is as a Mr Universe, and England’s Strongest Man. He is not a person who gives in, and used to be a boxer. He only started body building to help with his boxing. He then started protesting to help with his gym. Eddy’s business is not really a gym, but an extension of his passion for protecting people.
I hope Eddy Ellwood is soon celebrated as a national hero: the man who made a difference through spiritual heavy lifting.