More than 30 arrests made as police clash with lockdown protesters in central London
More than 30 arrests have been made after anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police in central London on Saturday.
Thousands of people joined the demonstration, which travelled from Hyde Park to St Paul’s Cathedral and back to Westminster, ahead of the anniversary of the first lockdown on March 23.
It comes as more than 60 MPs and peers signed a letter warning that allowing the police to criminalise people for protesting is “is not acceptable and is arguably not lawful”.
The Metropolitan Police walked with protesters on their route along Oxford Street, Chancery Lane, the Embankment and Parliament Square before heading up Whitehall.
Among those attending the march were controversial actor Laurence Fox and Piers Corbyn, brother of the former Labour Party leader.
Crowds that gathered in Trafalgar Square were dispersed, while other demonstrators returned to Hyde Park.
But police were met with more hostile responses there later in the evening, as protesters threw bottles and cans at them and some officers were later forced to run back to their vans.
A group of around one hundred people chased police vehicles, punching and kicking them, as they left the area.
Members of the public left the park, with small children carried by their parents.
Around a hundred police officers wearing riot helmets and carrying shields then arrived and urged people to go home.
The Met said 33 people had been arrested by 6.45pm, mostly for breaching Covid regulations.
Responding to the protests, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said it was “incredibly challenging” to police such events “particularly in the current circumstances”.
“Of course everyone has a right to protest, protest is not unlawful,” he told the BBC.
“But gatherings of this size are unsafe. It’s incredibly challenging to police events like this particularly in the current circumstances.
“We absolutely recognise the strength of communities, so what we need to do is try and look at what is the best way to keep people safe, the best way to proportionately enforce the law and to that in a way that requires as little intrusion as we can.”
Saturday’s clashes come a week after the Met faced criticism for its handling of a vigil on Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard.
The MPs’ letter said such “shocking scenes” were “entirely avoidable” if the Government had provided guidance to police and ensured protests were clearly exempt from the ban on gatherings under lockdown.
It was addressed to Home Secretary Priti Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and was co-ordinated by Liberty and Big Brother Watch,
Signatories include the Tory MPs Sir Charles Walker, Steve Baker, Sir Christopher Chope and Sir Desmond Swayne and the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.
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