32 arrested at anti-lockdown protest in London

Police condemn outbreaks of violence at event addressed by UCD professor

Demonstrators at an anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown rally  at Trafalgar Square, central London, England. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Demonstrators at an anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown rally at Trafalgar Square, central London, England. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

 

Police have condemned “unacceptable” outbreaks of “hostility and violence” towards officers at a large anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown protest in central London during which 32 people were arrested.

Hundreds descended on Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon for a “Resist And Act For Freedom” rally, including some bearing 5G conspiracy placards and signs declaring Covid-19 a “hoax”, with police repelled by human blockades as they tried to clear the area.

Dozens of officers, including some on horseback and in riot gear, were pushed back by crowds who chanted and cheered, with some throwing missiles.

Two officers suffered minor injuries, said Scotland Yard.

At least one protester was seen with a bloodied head, while another was seen receiving medical attention on the ground. The London Ambulance Service said three patients were assessed with one taken to hospital.

The London landmark was cleared of protesters after 5pm, and Scotland Yard said 32 people were arrested for offences including violent disorder and assault on an emergency worker, as well as under Covid-19 regulations.

Supt Emma Richards said: “We remain in the middle of a public health crisis, and . . . gathering in large numbers – such as today’s protest – puts others at risk. We advised those in attendance to leave but many refused to do so.

“The amount of hostility shown towards officers, who were simply there to keep people safe, is unacceptable. More than 30 people were arrested and they remain in custody.”

Rate of transmission

The protest came a day after mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned it is “increasingly likely” restrictions will be needed to slow the spread of coronavirus in the capital, adding he was “extremely concerned” about the rate of transmission of Covid-19 in London.

The number of cases per 100,000 people over seven days is reported to have increased in London from 18.8 to about 25.

Protests are exempt from new legal restrictions introduced on Monday limiting groupings, but only if they are “organised in compliance with Covid-19 Secure guidance”, the British government said.

One speaker at Saturday’s rally was Prof Dolores Cahill of UCD.

The Irish Times previously reported that UCD has disassociated itself from views on Covid-19 aired by Prof Cahill, who also chairs the eurosceptic Irish Freedom Party. – PA