Police have broken up a protest in central London after thousands of people defied their advice and demonstrated against lockdowns, mass vaccinations, mandatory wearing of face masks and other coronavirus restrictions.
The protest, organised by campaign groups including Save Our Rights UK, was called to mark six months since the passage of the Coronavirus Act, which gave the government wide-ranging powers to enact restrictions intended to curb the spread of the virus.
Protesters began gathering from about midday, with the first speaker saying the demonstration was meant to be peaceful, and that it had been negotiated beforehand with the Metropolitan police, with a full health and safety impact assessment filed in advance.
However, at about 3pm, the Met said the crowds had not “complied with the conditions of their risk assessment and are putting people in danger of transmitting the virus”.
They said the protesters must leave. “By leaving now, you can keep yourself safe and avoid any enforcement action being taken by officers.”
Officers waded in to break up part of the crowd and seize the sound system just before 3pm and used batons against protesters, leaving some bleeding with visible head injuries.
The Met said 16 people were arrested “for a variety of offences”. Nine police officers were injured.
After officers intervened, many protesters moved to Hyde Park, but police said they also did not have permission to be there in such numbers. At 4.30pm, dozens of officers began advancing on the newly formed crowds. Police soon declared it an illegal gathering.
It came just after conspiracy theorist David Icke made an incendiary speech at the top of the steps leading to the National Gallery, calling on people to take off their masks and embrace freedom. He urged police forces and militaries around the world to take the side of the people, rather than “psychopathic” governments.
“We will not hand control of our lives and our children’s lives to people like the UK health secretary Matt Hancock; a man who if his brains were gunpowder would not blow his hat off,” he said.
Also referring to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance, among others, he added: “Where is the self-respect in giving our lives to such people and doing whatever they tell us? Enough, no more.”
Piers Corbyn, one of the organisers and brother of the former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, also addressed the crowd in Trafalgar Square and implored people to hug others within their family groups.
“There is no justification in any terms for the lockdowns and the Covid rules, they are a complete hoax,” he claimed.
“Sweden did better without a lockdown. Masking is mad, it’s like asking a fly to not fly through a fence, it’s stupid. And we know that distancing is daft because you need to get close to people and hug them to improve your immune systems and feel happy.”
Corbyn cited a number of conspiracy theories, which he described as “tomorrow’s truths”, and called on MPs to more comprehensively explain the science behind government restrictions.
The words of speakers were met with roars of “Freedom!” from the crowd, while others chanted, “We will win”. Placards saying “Think before it is illegal” and “Obey” were held aloft, with some advertising the QAnon conspiracy theory.
In a statement, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, accused protesters of “reckless and violent behaviour” towards police.
“We cannot let the sacrifices Londoners have made be undermined by the selfish behaviour of a small number,” Khan said.
He also took to Twitter to condemn the protest, saying “I urge all protestors to leave now … you are putting the safety of our city at risk.”
A spokesperson for StandupX, one of the groups that helped organise the demo, said they were protesting because they “were not happy with the government restrictions”.
“We don’t agree with the mandatory masks, especially when the virus is smaller than the mask. We don’t feel that the mask is effective,” they said.
Prior to the police intervention, Kerry Dunn, 41, from Bath, said she was there to warn about the dangers of vaccines, saying she believed her son, Beau, had suffered serious adverse affects after he was vaccinated.
“That’s why we are here. I’ve been shouting that mandatory vaccines are coming, no one believed me. Now we can see it’s just around the corner, we’ve never been closer.”
Vinothini Apok, 40, from north London, who said she used to be a doctor, stated she was there because “people should be given a choice”. She said: “What I see happening is fear and negativity being propagated.”
Paul McLeish, 53, who had travelled from from Ashford, said he was there because of what he believed was a plan to oppress people for the benefit of the ruling class. “This agenda is to give people fear and push the death rates up.”
The demonstration, called We Do Not Consent, comes a week after a separate event during which more than a dozen officers were injured when a “small minority” targeted police and more than 32 arrests were made.
Ahead of Saturday’s protest, the Met said they had been engaging with organisers throughout the week to remind them of their legal obligations and explain that the events could be in breach of coronavirus regulations.
While protests are exempt from the rule of six, which is in force in England, organisers must submit a risk assessment and comply with social distancing.
Read the original article at The Guardian