Anti-lockdown protests: Over 150 arrested as crowds gather in London

Maya Oppenheim
·2-min read
<p>Current rules in place to curb the spread of coronavirus bar protests from taking place</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Current rules in place to curb the spread of coronavirus bar protests from taking place

(AFP via Getty Images)

Police have arrested 155 people for offences including breaching coronavirus regulations, assaulting a police officer and possession of drugs following anti-lockdown protests in central London.

The Metropolitan Police said it used early intervention methods to disperse the illegal gatherings, including intercepting coachloads of demonstrators as they came into the capital.

The force said those who did not turn back and go home were arrested or issued with a fixed penalty notice.

Demonstrators – many of whom were not wearing face masks – booed at police and shouted “shame on you” as disorderly scenes unravelled.

Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, policing commander for the event, said it was a "challenging day" for officers and thanked them for their work, adding: "On Friday, we made it very clear how we would police this event, warning those looking to attend that they risked facing enforcement action if they attended a gathering in London.

"Today's enforcement action is a direct result of those individuals deliberately breaking the law and at times, targeting our officers with aggression and causing disruption to the road network.

"Our policing plan will continue well into the evening and I would urge anyone who hasn't already dispersed to go home."

Current rules in place to curb the spread of coronavirus bar protests from taking place – with the Met Police previously warning demonstrators risk being subjected to enforcement action by officers.

The grassroots group Save Our Rights UK, which says it is working for democracy, had planned a protest on Saturday called Unite for Freedom – Time for Action.

The group took to Twitter to announce a last-minute change to its plan to gather at Kings Cross station on Saturday morning, after it said arrests had been made.

Supporters were instead told to meet at Marble Arch. Three people were arrested outside the station, police said.

A substantial group of demonstrators chanting “freedom” left the park near Marble Arch and marched along a road parallel to Oxford Street. Police walked alongside the protesters who carried placards reading “stop controlling us” and “no more lockdowns”.

Other signs read “ditch the face masks” and “no to mandatory masks”. A flyer for Saturday’s protests mentions a slew of outlandish conspiracy theories related to 5G and the Covid vaccine.

Last weekend saw 12 people arrested and several police officers injured after violence broke out at an anti-lockdown protest in Basildon in Essex.

Leader of Basildon Council, Cllr Gavin Callaghan, tweeted: “Police officers and their families have been put in totally avoidable danger thanks to the idiotic protestors taking to our streets and causing trouble today. I hope the 'protestors’ have the book thrown at them.”

Protesters have held rallies across England since the government introduced the second national lockdown on 5 November.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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