Almost 200 anti-lockdown protesters have been arrested as they marched through London on the first evening of tougher measures.
Very few people wore face coverings as they joined the ‘Million Mask March’ – an annual event on November 5 which is anti-establishment and against Government corruption – in Trafalgar Square, London.
People began to walk up the Strand just after 6pm, chanting ‘freedom’ and ‘no more lockdown’ and police urged them to go home. Many of them carried signs, one of which read: ‘No more lockdown, no more cover ups, no more masks, no more lies!’
Officers from both the City of London and Metropolitan Police forces were at the scene, with one officer heard shouting: ‘You are breaking the law.’
Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers, 73, arrived with a megaphone despite previously being fined £10,000 for his part in anti-lockdown events.
The Met said 190 people were arrested in total, with 189 of these being investigated for a fixed penalty notice and one person facing a £10,000 fine. Four protesters, one of whom was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, were arrested by police officers near the gates of Charing Cross Station.
A smaller demonstration gathered near Primark on Oxford Street soon after 7pm, 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 them.
Police said protesters were ignoring directions from officers and warned enforcement action would be taken against those who did not disperse. ‘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 at 8pm, while a number of protesters remained grouped in. Commander Jane Connors, who led last night’s 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.’
190 is a significant amount of arrests
Deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist added.‘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.’
It comes after three people were arrested and 13 were fined in a similar anti-lockdown protest in Liverpool city centre.
There were reports of huge crowds of people at St George’s Hall at around 6.30pm yesterday. A number of people were given fixed penalty notices for breaching lockdown regulations before the majority of the group left the area.
Merseyside Police has made it very clear on multiple occasions that the public are advised not to congregate, as protest is no longer an exemption for gatherings under the current restrictions, said chief inspector Peter Clark.
A significant amount of people attended St George’s Hall this evening and after being dispersed, some groups then moved to the Pier Head where they reformed.