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Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters descend on central London despite police warning
20 March 2021, 13:40 | Updated: 21 March 2021, 07:07
Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters have descended on central London despite being urged not to by the Metropolitan Police.
Protesters including outspoken anti-lockdown activist actor Laurence Fox were seen walking through London's Hyde Park, with audible chants of "stand up, take your freedom back!" coming from the group.
There were also protesters that could be heard chanting "let London live".
The Met Police have confirmed that at least 13 people were arrested by officers policing the protests in central London.
"Most of the arrests have been for breaching COVID regulations," the Met said on Twitter.
In a statement on Friday, the Met said: "The Met is aware of several groups intending on gathering in and around central London on Saturday, 20 March, for the purpose of protest, despite the country remaining in lockdown to protect the public from the spread of coronavirus.
"Current government legislation makes gatherings in groups of more than two people unlawful, unless exemptions apply.
"Gathering for the purpose of a protest is not an exception under the Covid-19 regulations. The right to protest must be balanced against the rights of others and the protection of public health.
"In the interests of public health, the Met is telling people not to attend central London in order to gather to protest. By gathering in large numbers, there is a risk of spreading the virus that has claimed so many lives.
"A significant policing operation will be in place throughout the day to engage with people who are in breach of the regulations.
"Those gathering will be encouraged to return home, if they do not, they face necessary and proportionate enforcement action. This could be a fixed penalty notice, or arrest."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, said: “The Met is committed to working with groups who wish to assemble to protest or for other purposes.
"But these are not normal times. Within the last few weeks, London has seen high infection rates with many people in hospital because of coronavirus.
"Given the very real threat to public health, it is vital we all take action to avoid situations where the virus can easily spread."
The protesters have descended on central London one month after Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown restrictions for England.
During the protest, the Met Police tweeted: "Met officers are engaging with those gathering around Piccadilly and other areas of central London to protest, explaining that we remain in a public health crisis and urging people to disperse or go home."
Meanwhile, the Government has been put under renewed pressure form MPs to ease Covid lockdown restrictions to allow protests to take place.
A letter has been signed by more than 60 MPs and peers, which warns that allowing the police to criminalise people for protesting is "is not acceptable and is arguably not lawful".