Arrests made at anti-lockdown protest attended by Piers Corbyn

By Rod Minchin, PA
·3-min read

Fourteen people have been arrested after anti-lockdown marchers defied police orders to cancel their protest.

Avon and Somerset Police had made clear they would take action if an event organised by Stand Up Bristol went ahead.

The force said around 400 people gathered on College Green before marching through the city centre.

One of those addressing the crowd was Piers Corbyn, 73, the elder brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Photographers showed Mr Corbyn being led away from the protest by uniformed officers, but it was unclear whether he was arrested. The weather forecaster has previously attended other anti-lockdown protests.

Current coronavirus regulations prohibit gatherings of more than two people – and while there are certain exemptions, protests are not allowed.

By law, anyone organising or facilitating a gathering of more than 30 people is liable to a fixed penalty notice of £10,000 while those participating in a gathering of more than two people can be fined £200.

Police said several people were identified as leaders of the protest and were arrested.

Most arrests were for breaches of the coronavirus regulations, with one man also arrested for assaulting a police officer, the force said.

Chief Inspector Mark Runacres said: “While we understand the right to freedom of expression is an important part of our democracy, protests aren’t currently allowed under coronavirus regulations.

“And so unlike previous protests which have taken place during the pandemic, we couldn’t legally or morally facilitate today’s event.

“We warned the organisers repeatedly of the consequences should they press ahead with their plans, both in terms of the enforcement action we would take and the risk it presented in spreading Covid-19, but sadly they chose to ignore these.

“Knowing there was a possibility of the protest going ahead, a comprehensive policing plan was put in place and while officers initially looked to encourage people to leave the area it became clear enforcement action was necessary.”

Merseyside Police officers were also called to respond to a protest in Liverpool city centre where 27 people were arrested for public order offences.

A 32-year-old man was arrested for assaulting a police officer, while a woman was arrested on suspicion of attempted wounding and dangerous driving, the force said.

The force described the protest attendees as “selfish, ignorant and irresponsible people” who had “let themselves and their families down”.

Superintendent Diane Pownall said: “Working with our partners, our job is to keep everybody safe and I want to take this opportunity to thank the people who are doing all they can to help protect us all, including our frontline officers and emergency services and NHS staff.

“The rules apply to everybody and it is unfair – and unlawful – when people choose to ignore them for their own selfish and misguided reasons. This is dangerous and irresponsible behaviour which could endanger the people of Liverpool who are working to ensure we can leave lockdown safely.

“We have spent considerable time engaging with the public to explain the current regulations and I know the vast majority of the public will support us as we continue to take action against those who choose to deliberately break the law.”