Hundreds attend Kill the Bill protests across England
Hundreds of people have taken part in Kill the Bill protests across the UK on Friday, despite warnings issued by police.
Large numbers of people gathered in Guildhall Square in Southampton and demonstrators also convened in London and Manchester.
Following an easing of restrictions in England, the protests are now lawful – providing organisers submit a risk assessment and take steps to ensure the gatherings are safe.
Despite this, the Metropolitan Police warned on Thursday the safety of the wider community is paramount and said enforcement action would be taken “if needed, in the interests of public health”.
In Southampton, protesters set up a makeshift PA system and chanted “Kill the Bill”, while others banged drums.
Kimberley Daphne, who attended the Leeds protest, said: “There were around 1,500 people there and the atmosphere was quite peaceful and without intimidation.
“The police guarded the protest and stood around looking for any conflicts or anti-social behaviour.
“It felt really empowering, it felt right to fight for our own voice in a country where only the privileged have a say.”
A crowd of around 200 gathered outside the gates of Finsbury Park, in north London, mostly wearing masks, holding banners with phrases defending the right to protest.
The group stayed for around an hour and a half before dispersing peacefully.
In Manchester, demonstrators remained socially distanced in St Peter’s Square.
It came after Greater Manchester Police sought to avoid a repeat of scenes played out across the country this week by introducing a 48-hour dispersal order for the city centre, to last until 3pm on Saturday.
It means officers can direct anyone acting anti-socially to leave the area.
The first Kill the Bill protest in Bristol on March 21 descended into a riot, with subsequent rallies on March 23 and 26 also ending in clashes between the police and protesters. A further demonstration on March 30 passed off peacefully.
The proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.