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Protesters “may get arrested” if they defy orders to leave a demonstration in central London against coronavirus restrictions and mass vaccinations, the Met police has warned.
More than a thousand people are estimated to have joined the central London rally, among them 5G conspiracy theorists, coronavirus sceptics and “anti-vaxxers”.
Sections got into scuffles with police – some officers, with their batons drawn, were pushed back by crowds on the margins of the demo.
In a statement issued at 3pm on Saturday, the Met said it would take enforcement action to disperse the Resist And Act for Freedom rally following “outbreaks of violence towards officers”.
The force says it attended the demonstration, which began at about midday, and attempted to encourage protesters to leave throughout the day.
“Despite this, protesters have remained, putting themselves and others at risk,” it said.
“It is important to remember that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, and the changes have been introduced to help control the spread of the virus, keep everybody safe and save lives.”
Dozens of officers, including some mounted on horseback, tried to break up ranks of protesters who had formed human blockades to prevent them making arrests, with loud cheering and chanting as they pushed back the police, according to the PA news agency.
Meanwhile, others attempted to calm the situation down. One man, speaking through a megaphone, said: “Remember this is about peace. We don’t want no hooligans … I’m one of the ones who started this thing … So don’t come now and mess it up. Don’t come now and fight with the police.”
Elsewhere a group of young people performed a song in front of a line of police officers to deescalate the situation. “Coronavirus, unruly like Miley Cyrus,” they chanted.
Among the crowds were people selling T-shirts bearing 5G conspiracy theories and advocating the legalisation of cannabis, with banners calling for government scientific advisers to be sacked and declaring Covid-19 a “hoax”.
Addressing the crowd to huge cheers, organiser Kate Shemirani said: “We are the resistance.”
The protest was advertised with an image showing a vaccine bottle and urging people to “Come together, resist and act”.
Since Monday, the number of people from multiple households that can attend social gatherings in England, whether indoors or outdoors, has been cut to six under new “rule of six” Covid-19 restrictions.
However, there are a number of exemptions, including for protests. In order to be exempted, protest organisers must take steps including demonstrating that they are a “political body” and complete a thorough risk assessment focusing on the coronavirus.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Coronavirus protesters in London ‘may get arrested’, police warn | UK news