Police make arrests at London anti-lockdown protest after risk assessment violated

Police say demonstration was no longer exempt from coronavirus laws banning gatherings

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Saturday 24 October 2020 17:41
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Arrests have been made at an anti-lockdown protest in London after demonstrators broke the terms of a risk assessment.

The “Stop the New Normal” rally ended in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon after marching from Hyde Park to Westminster.

It was the latest weekly demonstration organised by conspiracy theorists, including anti-vaxxers.

Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy, was among the speakers despite awaiting trial for allegedly  breaking coronavirus laws at two previous protests in May. He denies the charges.

Shortly before 4pm, police moved in to clear protesters after finding that they violated an agreement that allowed the event to go ahead despite tier two coronavirus restrictions in the capital.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said protesters had “failed to comply with the terms of their risk assessment, government guidelines and were not maintaining social distancing”.

“The officer in charge determined their protest is no longer exempt from the regulations and is an illegal gathering,” a statement added.

The force said officers would ask demonstrators to leave and use enforcement as a last resort.

At least 10 arrests have so far been made. One man appeared to be wearing a tin foil hat and fake beard, while a woman shouted at passers-by “they are arresting me for nothing, make a video”.

Another man repeated “coronavirus is a lie … it’s fake, it doesn’t exist” as he was carried away.

There was disruption on Westminster Bridge as a small number of protesters who had been cleared from Trafalgar Square sat in the road and blocked traffic.

Small scuffles broke out as police, who were wearing masks and were not in riot gear, tried to move them before they dispersed.

Anti-lockdown protesters take part in a march, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain October 24, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Earlier in the day, protesters had marched to landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street and New Scotland Yard.

They called for an end to the “tyranny” of pandemic restrictions, and many voiced their opposition to vaccines and belief in conspiracy theories, with some questioning the existence of Covid-19.

At one point, a group of protesters standing outside the Houses of Parliament sang a song with a chorus of: “You can stick your phoney virus up your arse.”

Current restrictions in London ban outdoor gatherings of more than six people, and protests are only exempt if protective measures are put in place.

Ahead of the event, police had warned that demonstrators who deliberately ignore instructions and put other people at risk from coronavirus would be subject to enforcement action.

Commander Ade Adelekan said: “Everybody has a personal responsibility to stick to the regulations and help prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

“We will not allow the health of Londoners to be put at risk and officers and we will take action against those groups or individuals who flagrantly and dangerously breach these rules.”

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