Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Police clash with anti-lockdown protesters in Manchester city centre
8 November 2020, 18:26 | Updated: 8 November 2020, 18:32
Police in Manchester have dispersed hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters after repeatedly warning organisers against the event.
Crowds gathered in the city centre on Sunday afternoon after a week of tougher lockdown restrictions.
Despite repeated warnings from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) before a during the gathering, the group defiantly stayed in Piccadilly Gardens for hours.
The city continues to have one of the highest infection rates in the country, but protesters decided to gather - many without face masks or socially distancing - regardless.
Officers gained a dispersal order at around 4pm and moved in on the protesters, clearing the crowd of around 1,000 people out of the areas but spreading groups into the rest of the city centre.
The group had a short standoff with police in surrounding streets before eventually dispersing.
It is understood only a few protesters remain in the city centre but a large police presence will continue into the evening.
A GMP spokesperson said: "GMP is aware of a large gathering in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester City Centre and officers are in attendance.
"Prior to this gathering, officers engaged with the organiser; explained the restrictions; and encouraged compliance and are continuing to do so.
"Under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a Section 34 Dispersal Order has been authorised in Manchester City Centre until 6.45pm today."
The protest has angered city leaders, with Manchester Councillor Pat Karney telling the Manchester Evening News: "I can completely condemn this disgraceful gathering in Piccadilly Gardens.
"These people should check out the ambulances going in and out of our hospitals at the moment to see the massive health crisis we are all facing."If you disagree with the restrictions, write to to your MP but don't endanger people's health."