More than 150 arrested as anti-lockdown protesters descend on London

28 November 2020, 14:46 | Updated: 28 November 2020, 19:38

By Kate Buck

More than 150 people have so far been arrested in central London as anti-lockdown protesters descend on the capital.

A police spokesperson said the 155 arrests "were for offences including breaching coronavirus regulations, assaulting a police officer and possession of drugs".

Police had previously urged people not to attend the mass gathering, as the rest of the country edges closer to the end of the second national lockdown.

Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, policing commander for the event, said: “This was a challenging day for Met, City of London and British Transport Police officers and I would like to thank them for the professionalism they have shown throughout the day.

“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. Today’s 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.

“Our policing plan will continue well into the evening and I would urge anyone who hasn’t already dispersed to go home. By doing so, you can avoid ending up facing enforcement action and help protect yourself and others during this health crisis.”

Police faced booing from demonstrators and chants of "shame on you" as they intervened in the anti-lockdown protest.

Traffic was temporarily blocked on Regent Street as officers attempted to handcuff people on the ground in the middle of the road.

Activists marched from Hyde Park to Oxford Circus and Regent Street, clashing with helmeted police who arrived in several vans and ran to respond to the chaos.

Officers grappled with people on the ground in attempts to detain them at different locations as onlookers jeered and filmed on their phones.

At one point, green smoke was released as protesters were surrounded by police at the top of Carnaby Street.

Anti-lockdown protesters have descended on London
Anti-lockdown protesters have descended on London. Picture: PA
A protester dressed as Santa Claus was pictured in handcuffs during the demonstration
A protester dressed as Santa Claus was pictured in handcuffs during the demonstration. Picture: PA
Green smoke rises from a flare thrown as anti-lockdown activists confront police officers
Green smoke rises from a flare thrown as anti-lockdown activists confront police officers. Picture: PA

The main crowd of protesters appeared to disperse near Piccadilly Circus before reforming elsewhere in the shopping district.

Demonstrators, including some dressed as Christmas elves, brandished signs reading "All I want for Christmas is my freedom back", "Ditch the face masks" and "Stop controlling us".

Responding to the anti-lockdown protests, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "We've seen our police officers yet again do incredible work to ensure that they help to stop the spread of this awful virus.

"The people that are protesting today have been protesting for many months, and we've seen this over successive weekends."

She added: "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."

Protests are not among the permitted exemptions to the prohibition on gatherings under current coronavirus regulations in England and those who attend risk enforcement action by officers, the spokesman warned.

The grassroots group Save Our Rights UK, which says it is working for democracy, is planning a protest on Saturday called Unite For Freedom - Time For Action, according to its website.

Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, the policing commander for this weekend, said: "Our city is in a critical fight against Covid-19 and we cannot allow gatherings to jeopardise the progress and sacrifices our communities have made in fighting this virus.

"That is why we will be taking action in relation to prohibited gatherings on the streets of London, including those related to protest across the capital this weekend.

"Our top priority is public safety and that is why we cannot allow individuals to break the law and put their health, and the health of their friends, family and the wider community, at risk. If you are planning on attending a gathering, I would urge you to reconsider and stay at home."