London protest: 16 arrests and officers injured as police shut down anti-lockdown rally after crowds break social distancing rules

Violent clashes as officers try to clear thousands from Trafalgar Square over social distancing concerns

Daisy Lester
Saturday 26 September 2020 23:07
Anti-lockdown protestors gather in Trafalgar Square

Police have arrested 16 people and nine officers have been injured after violence flared at an anti-lockdown protest in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Clashes broke out as police tried to clear thousands of demonstrators who defied advice to maintain social distancing at the rally against coronavirus regulations.

Crowds had amasssed in Trafalgar Square carrying signs, flags and placards at the "we do not consent" protest, organised by campaign groups which object to restrictions such as lockdowns and the requirement to wear face masks.

Bottles were thrown and police used batons against protesters, leaving some with visible injuries, when officers tried to shut down the demonstration.

Officers penning in the crowd in Trafalgar Square also had water thrown at them by crowds chanting “pick your side”.

Scotland Yard said that 16 people had been arrested following the demonstration, which moved from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park.

Arrests were for a variety of offences including breaching coronavirus regulations, assaulting a police officer, public order offences and violent disorder.

A total of nine officers were injured, two of whom required hospital treatment for head injuries, police said.

At least three demonstrators were also injured.

Police removed sound equipment from Trafalgar Square and several protesters were led away in handcuffs while another demonstrator was physically carried away  by officers.

The protest had been permitted to go ahead but the Met warned earlier on Saturday that officers would break it up if protesters failed to follow coronavirus rules.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, stressed that large gatherings, including protests, were still banned to stop the spread of Covid-19.

He added: "The reckless and violent behaviour of some protestors has left hard-working police officers injured and put the safety of our city, which is at a critical moment in the fight against this virus, at risk. This is totally unacceptable.

"We cannot let the sacrifices Londoners have made be undermined by the selfish behaviour of a small number.

"Violence of this kind towards officers will not be tolerated and perpetrators will feel the full force of the law."

The Metropolitan Police said the protest was stopped because crowds had not complied with social distancing and risked spreading coronavirus.

The force said demonstrators were asked to leave and warned that anyone who stayed could be subject to enforcement action.

Officers penned the crowd in Trafalgar Square and water was thrown at them by demonstrators, while crowds also chanted "pick your side" at the officers.

Police removed sound equipment from Trafalgar Square and several protesters were led away in handcuffs.

Another demonstrator was physically carried away from the scene by officers.

Commander Ade Adelekan said: "As the crowds began to swell in Trafalgar Square, it became impossible for people maintain social distancing and keep each other safe.

"Likewise, there appeared to be no efforts by organisers to engage with crowds and keep those assembling safe from transmitting the virus. This lack of action voided the risk assessment submitted by event organisers the night before.

"Therefore, today's demonstration was no longer exempt from the coronavirus regulations. In the interest of public safety, officers then worked quickly to disperse crowds.

"However, I am very frustrated to see that nine officers were injured during clashes with a small minority of protesters.

"This is especially saddening in light of the injuries sustained by officers last weekend."

During another anti-lockdown rally last weekend, 15 officers were injured and more than 32 arrests were made.

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