London, November 29
Scotland Yard has said its officers policing anti-lockdown protests in central London have made 155 arrests as part of early interventions to prevent people from gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Metropolitan Police made arrests for offences including breaching coronavirus regulations, assaulting a police officer and possession of drugs.
Save Our Rights UK, a group holding demonstrations against the stay-at-home rules, said it held protests on Saturday against the government’s COVID-19 lockdown.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had on October 31 announced a second lockdown in England as the country crossed the grim milestone of 1 million coronavirus cases. The lockdown took effect on November 5 and will last until December 2.
Large gatherings are banned under the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
The Metropolitan Police on Saturday said its officers made a number of early interventions to prevent people from gathering and urge them to go home.
As part of this, coaches transporting protesters into the UK capital were intercepted and those who did not turn back were either arrested or issued fines or fixed penalty notices under the coronavirus legislation, it said.
“This was a challenging day for Met, City of London and British Transport Police officers,” Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, policing commander on the protests, said on Saturday.
“On Friday, we made it very clear how we would police this event, warning those looking to attend that they risked facing enforcement action if they attended a gathering in London,” he said.
“The enforcement action is a direct result of those individuals deliberately breaking the law and at times, targeting our officers with aggression and causing disruption to the road network,” he added.
Bell urged people to follow the rules to avoid “enforcement action” and help protect everyone during the “health crisis”.
Some of the protesters were dressed up as elves and waved placards reading “All I want for Christmas is my freedom back”, “Ditch the face masks” and “Stop controlling us”.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel lauded the Met Police action and emphasised that the aim behind the regulations was to save lives.
“We’ve seen our police officers yet again do incredible work to ensure that they help to stop the spread of this awful virus,” she said.
“The people that are protesting today have been protesting for many months, and we’ve seen this over successive weekends. We ask everybody to be conscientious, we all know the regulations and the guidance. We have brought these measures in to save lives and to prevent preventable deaths,” she said.
After the four-week national lockdown in England ends on Wednesday, it will be replaced by a three-tiered system of regional measures that restrict business activity, travel and socialising. The vast majority of the country is being put into the upper two tiers.
Some rights groups have called for the right to safely protest to be explicitly outlined as an exemption in regulations covering England’s tiered restrictions. PTI