Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
16 arrested and nine officers injured as London anti-lockdown rally cleared
26 September 2020, 16:21 | Updated: 27 September 2020, 06:37
16 people were arrested and nine police officers injured during the dispersal of a large crowd protesting in central London against lockdown measures.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon to participate in a "we do not consent" rally against coronavirus restrictions - but ultimately resulted in police clearing the crowd for violating social distancing rules.
In a statement, the Met said its officers had been injured while "engaging with people" as they tried to move the protest from the square, with at least two being taken to hospital.
A further 16 people were arrested.
Commander Ade Adelekan, leading the police operation, 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.
"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.
"I am grateful to those members of the demonstration who listened to officers and went home.
“However, I am very frustrated to see that nine officers were injured during clashes with a small minority of protestors. This is especially saddening in light of the injuries sustained by officers last weekend. We will be supporting those officers who were injured and I wish them a very speedy recovery.
“Our policing operation will continue into the evening and I would urge everyone to keep each other safe by not gathering in large numbers and maintaining social distancing.”
At least three protesters and one officer was spotted being treated by medical staff on location as bottles were thrown at police, and officers responded by using their batons - leaving some with visible injuries.
Penning some protesters in, the crowd shouted for the officers to "pick your side" as the sound equipment was removed and some people were led away in handcuffs.
One demonstrator was physically carried away from the scene by officers, while another was searched and had his makeshift riot shield confiscated.
The protest on Saturday comes a week after another event in which a "small minority" targeted police and left more than a dozen officers injured. At least 32 arrests were made.
Protests are currently exempt from the rule of six in England as long as organisers submit a risk assessment and vow to stick to social distancing rules.
According to the Met, some organisers had followed the rules, but warned to others who had not to expect officers to "increase their engagement and encourage attendees to disperse".
It added that enforcement "remains a last resort but will be undertaken if required."