More than 100 people arrested at London protest against lockdown

By Emma Bowden and Benjamin Cooper, PA
·2-min read

Police have arrested 104 anti-lockdown protesters as hundreds of people marched through the streets of central London on the day tougher coronavirus rules came into force in England.

Officers urged demonstrators to go home as they took to the streets near Trafalgar Square on Thursday evening, warning those who had gathered that they were breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Protesters, very few of whom were wearing face coverings, began to walk up the Strand soon after 6pm, chanting “freedom” and “no more lockdown”.

Trailed by a large number of officers from both the City of London and Metropolitan Police forces, protesters were repeatedly told to go home, with one officer shouting at a group: “You are breaking the law.”

The Met said in a statement the majority of arrests were for breaches of the new regulations and the number of arrests was expected to increase as the operation continued through the night.

Commander Jane Connors, who is leading the operation, said the force’s main priority had been to “keep Londoners safe”.

“We are eight months into this national pandemic and frankly there can be no excuse for people to dangerously breach regulations which are there to prevent further spread of coronavirus,” she said.

“Tonight, a crowd of people chose to ignore the new regulations, to behave irresponsibly and meet in a dangerous manner. More than 100 of these people have now been arrested and will have to face the consequences of their actions.”

Four protesters, one of whom was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, were arrested by police officers near the gates of Charing Cross Station.

Soon after 7pm, a smaller demonstration gathered near Primark on Oxford Street, where a number of protesters were grouped in by two lines of officers.

Police detain a protester
Police detain a protester (Aaron Chown/PA)

Those clustered in by police chanted “stand up” while officers encouraged protesters gathered nearby to go home.

“You need to leave, you are breaching coronavirus restrictions,” one officer told demonstrators.

The Metropolitan Police said that protesters were ignoring directions from officers and warned enforcement action would be taken against those who did not disperse.

Police officers during the march
Police officers during the march (Aaron Chown/PA)

“This gathering is unlawful and is putting others at risk,” a tweet by the force said.

“We are directing those there to go home.

“Failure to do so will result in enforcement action.”

A number of police vans and officers were still in place on Oxford Street soon before 8pm, while a number of protesters remained grouped in.

Commander Connors said: “I would continue to urge people across the city to keep yourselves safe and stick to the regulations.”