Police have arrested 190 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 Metropolitan Police said one of the 190 people arrested could be handed a £10,000 fine, which can be given to organisers of large gatherings.
The other 189 are being investigated for breaching the new Covid-19 regulations.
Breaches can be punished with a £200 fixed penalty notice, reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days, which doubles on every offence up to a maximum of £6,400.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said in a statement on Friday: “There can be no excuse for breaching the regulations which have been designed to save lives and keep people safe.
“Those who came out to protest last night put their health at risk and, frustratingly, they put the health of London and our officers at risk, this is clearly unacceptable.
“A significant policing plan was in place last night and officers moved swiftly to speak with those who were intending to gather.
“Officers explained very clearly the regulations and unfortunately a number of people took deliberate steps to ignore the direction.
“Because of this, firm action was taken and a large number of arrests were made.
“We will not tolerate these dangerous breaches of the regulations.
“190 is a significant amount of arrests and we have a post-incident plan in place to ensure these investigations are progressed and the suspects are brought to justice.
“For anyone who plans to come out over the next four weeks, it is your responsibility to ensure we all comply with the current regulations.
“Officers will be out and about engaging with members of the public and the small minority who deliberately refuse to abide by the rules will see enforcement action being taken.”
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.
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.