Thousands join Million Mask March in London amid rigorous police restrictions

Supporters of the hacking collective Anonymous have began marching on Trafalgar Square

Alexandra Sims
Saturday 05 November 2016 18:45
masked protester holds a sign which reads 'We Are Legion' in Trafalgar Square during the Million Mask March on November 5, 2016 in London
masked protester holds a sign which reads 'We Are Legion' in Trafalgar Square during the Million Mask March on November 5, 2016 in London

Thousands of protesters have descend on central London for the Million Masked March, despite Scotland Yard imposing strict restrictions on the event.

Supporters of the hacking collective Anonymous began marching on Trafalgar Square on Saturday with scores of police officers maintaining a tight perimeter.

The group's agenda is broadly anti-capitalist and pro-civil liberty, with many of the demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks in an effort to recreate the final scene of cult film V For Vendetta. It is one of many similar marches held worldwide on 5 November.

A masked protester holds up a flare on Whitehall (Getty Images )
A masked protester waves an 'Anarchy' flag in front of a line of police (Getty Images )

The march began peacefully, with several demonstrators climbing the base of Nelson's column and chanting "one solution, revolution".

A small number of fireworks were reportedly set off in the crowd and some demonstrators marched off the pre-organised route, according to reports on Twitter.

By 7pm the Metropolitan Police said they had made 10 arrests and as of 9pm 33 had been made.

Eleven were made for obstruction after they refused to remove their masks for police, three for possession of an offensive weapon, 14 for possession of drugs, two for public order offences, one for criminal damage and two others were also made.

By 10:45pm, 47 arrests had been made in total - the majority of which were for drug offences and obstruction.

A firework is fired at a line of police by protesters during the Million Mask March (Getty Images )
Masked protesters hold placards and wave flags as they stand on and around Nelson's Column (Getty Images )

Metropolitan Police issued a warning before the event that “masked criminals seeking to run amok” will be arrested if the protest turns violent after last year’s march saw ugly scenes with missiles and fireworks thrown at police.

Protester Angela Windsor, 40, who travelled from Wales to the march said: "Nobody is protecting people - nobody cares. I think everyone here cares enough about people to make the effort to come down and try and do something, because the officials aren't doing it."

She said anyone who tried to repeat last year's violent displays would be off the mark: "Nobody wants a fight, we just want change."

Another protester, a London-based mental health worker who gave his name as Jay and was dressed as Father Christmas, said he had chosen the costume to show "not all of us are down here for violence".

There were chaotic scenes shortly before 9pm, with riot police moving in to make arrests.

A group of protesters surrounded and charged at the officers, shouting "f*** the police" and "police brutality". Several glass bottles were thrown as police escorted another protester away.

Police have imposed conditions on this year's march, limiting it to a three-hour period between 6pm and 9pm on a prescribed route between Trafalgar Square and Whitehall.

Police said last year protesters abandoned an agreed route and timetable for the demonstration and thousands of riot police and mounted officers were deployed to contain crowds after the largely peaceful protest at Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square dispersed across the centre of the capital.

Four officers and six police horses were injured and some protesters attempted to set a police car on fire.

More than 1,000 people are believed to have attended the march in 2015 and there were more than 50 arrests.

Any static protest must only take place in Trafalgar Square, Richmond Terrace and Parliament Square, and the Met has warned that anyone breaching the conditions could be arrested for public order offences.

Nearly 20,000 people had indicated they would attend on the event's Facebook page, which defended the action saying "the police are not your friends".

Additional reporting by Press Association

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