Friday, 4 Dec 2020

Anti-lockdown protesters clash with police as dozens arrested

Dozens of anti-lockdown and anti-vaxxer protesters have been arrested after gathering in Somerset and Liverpool as England enters its second week of lockdown.

Crowds flouting social distancing restrictions were pictured scuffling with police after warnings to cancel demonstrations were ignored on Saturday.

It comes as a SAGE scientist warns the next two weeks are ‘crucial’ in ensuring England comes out of lockdown on December 2 as planned.

Fourteen people were arrested in Bristol today after around 400 people met on College Green and marched through the city centre in a protest organised by Stand Up Bristol.

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Avon and Somerset Police – which previously warned against the event going ahead – said they had arrested one man for assaulting a police officer. Several others were taken into custody after being identified as leaders.

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers Corbyn, who has attended numerous other anti-lockdown protests, was one of the people who addressed the crowd during the day.

Chief Inspector Mark Runacres said: ‘While we understand the right to freedom of expression is an important part of our democracy, protests aren’t currently allowed under coronavirus regulations.

‘And so unlike previous protests which have taken place during the pandemic, we couldn’t legally or morally facilitate today’s event.

‘We warned the organisers repeatedly of the consequences should they press ahead with their plans, both in terms of the enforcement action we would take and the risk it presented in spreading Covid-19, but sadly they chose to ignore these.

‘Knowing there was a possibility of the protest going ahead, a comprehensive policing plan was put in place and while officers initially looked to encourage people to leave the area it became clear enforcement action was necessary.’

Meanwhile, 27 people were arrested for public order offences after large crowds gathered at St George’s Hall in Liverpool.

A man, 32, was arrested for assaulting a police officer, while a woman was arrested on suspicion of attempted wounding and dangerous driving, Merseyside Police said.

The force described attendees as ‘selfish, ignorant and irresponsible people’ who had ‘let themselves and their families down’.

Superintendent Diane Pownall said: ‘Working with our partners, our job is to keep everybody safe and I want to take this opportunity to thank the people who are doing all they can to help protect us all, including our frontline officers and emergency services and NHS staff.

‘The rules apply to everybody and it is unfair – and unlawful – when people choose to ignore them for their own selfish and misguided reasons.

‘This is dangerous and irresponsible behaviour which could endanger the people of Liverpool who are working to ensure we can leave lockdown safely.

‘We have spent considerable time engaging with the public to explain the current regulations and I know the vast majority of the public will support us as we continue to take action against those who choose to deliberately break the law.’

Current coronavirus regulations prohibit gatherings of more than two people. There are certain exemptions but protests are not permitted.

Anyone organising or facilitating a gathering of more than 30 people is liable to a fixed penalty notice of £10,000, while those participating in a gathering of more than two people can be fined £200.

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