Anti-lockdown protesters shout 'take off the mask' at huge London march
Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters chanted ‘take off the mask’ as they protested in central London today.
Huge crowds gathered for a ‘We do not consent’ rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon after the UK was hit with a new Government crackdown this week.
Many demonstrators held placards claiming the country was experiencing a second wave ‘because it fits the political agenda’, while others warned ‘we will win’.
One woman was seen holding a sign that stated ‘A hug a day keeps the Covid away’, while another read ‘Covid-1984’ in reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel.
The mass demonstration comes as more than a quarter of people in the UK are placed under stricter lockdown rules and 38 areas are added to the national watchlist.
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Protests are exempt from the ‘rule of six’ which is currently in force across England, but rules dictate that people must comply with social distancing.
None of the protesters in the capital appeared to be wearing face coverings as they crammed into Trafalgar Square today.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson has warned that enforcement ‘remains a last resort but will be undertaken if required’.
The force has been engaging with organisers throughout the week to remind them of their legal obligations and explaining the events could be in breach of coronavirus regulations.
Officers said some organisers had submitted a risk assessment – as required – but they would ‘increase their engagement and encourage attendees to disperse’ where this had not happened.
A separate protest last weekend saw police clash with ‘a small minority’ of anti-lockdown protesters, with more than 32 arrests and 15 officers injured.
No arrests have been made so far today but police searched a man and confiscated a makeshift riot shield that he was carrying earlier.
Commander Ade Adelekan, who is leading the Met operation, has warned he will ‘not tolerate’ a repeat of last weekend.
While there is ‘great frustration’ at the regulations, a large protest could put the health of protesters and their contacts at risk, he added.
He said: ‘I know there is great frustration to these regulations but they have been designed to keep everyone safe from what is a lethal virus.
‘By flagrantly gathering in large numbers and ignoring social distancing, you are putting your health and the health of your loved ones at risk.’
He added: ‘Last weekend it was highly disappointing to see that a small minority of demonstrators targeted officers with violence. Some 15 officers were injured during this protest, with more than 32 arrests being made during the course of the day.
‘I will not tolerate a repeat of this behaviour this weekend and officers will respond quickly to any scenes of violence.’
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