16 arrested after clashes at anti-lockdown demo

Bottles were thrown and police used batons against protesters, leaving some with visible injuries.

Coronavirus – Sat Sep 26, 2020
Coronavirus – Sat Sep 26, 2020

Police said 16 people had been arrested and nine officers injured following clashes at anti-lockdown demonstrations in central London.

Thousands of people massed in Trafalgar Square on Saturday carrying a variety of signs, flags and placards to take part in a “we do not consent” rally – with none appearing to wear face coverings or to social distance.

But officers clashed with protesters when police tried to shut the event down because crowds were not complying with social-distancing rules.

Bottles were thrown and police used batons against protesters, leaving some with visible injuries.

At least three protesters and one officer were treated by medical staff.

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, it added.

A total of nine officers were injured, two of whom required hospital treatment for head injuries, the force added.

Coronavirus – Sat Sep 26, 2020
A protester on the ground in Trafalgar Square (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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.

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

Protesters and police in Trafalgar Square.
Protesters and police in Trafalgar Square (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“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.”

Earlier, police searched a man and confiscated a makeshift riot shield he was carrying.

The protest comes a week after a separate event which saw more than a dozen officers injured when a “small minority” targeted police and more than 32 arrests were made.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

The Met said it had 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.

While protests are exempt from the “rule of six” in England, organisers must submit a risk assessment and comply with social distancing.

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