UK police arrest dozens of people at anti-lockdown protests

WION Web Team
London, United Kingdom Published: Mar 21, 2021, 07:58 AM(IST)

Protests and arrests in London Photograph:( AFP )

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Anti-lockdown demonstrations by hundreds or even thousands have occurred regularly during the pandemic, often resulting in a small number of arrests. 

Police arrested at least 36 people after thousands turned out in the British capital to protest against ongoing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Anti-lockdown demonstrations by hundreds or even thousands have occurred regularly during the pandemic, often resulting in a small number of arrests. 

On Saturday, the Metropolitan Police Service said it had made 36 arrests, most for breaching months-old virus regulations that outlaw leaving home except for a limited number of reasons.

Several thousand people were estimated to have gathered for the demonstrations, which began Saturday lunchtime at Hyde Park, holding banners with slogans such as "Stop Destroying Our Kids` Lives" and "Fake Pandemic".

After the crowd marched through central London, a group of around 100 returned to the park where police said they threw missiles at officers.  

Officials said several people were injured as a result of targetted assaults.

England's Covid-19 lockdown measures have been in place since early January, when Britain saw a surge in infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths. 

Also read | Over 60 lawmakers call for protests to be allowed in England during lockdown 

The situation has improved markedly since then, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month outlined a gradual easing of the restrictions, with the stringent stay-at-home order set to end later this month.

Under England's coronavirus rules it is unlawful for groups to gather for the purpose of protest, but opposition to such measures has grown this week, not specifically related to anti-lockdown demonstrations.

Police were criticised for using heavy-handed tactics to break up an outdoor vigil for 33-year-old Sarah Everard on March 13. A police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

More than 60 British lawmakers wrote to interior minister Priti Patel on Friday calling for protests to be allowed during lockdown and saying that attending a demonstration should not be a criminal offence.

"We call on you to expressly exempt protests from restrictions on gatherings," lawmakers, including Conservative Member of Parliament Steve Baker and Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said in the letter, which was organised by campaign groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch.

There were three consecutive nights of protest in London earlier this week, fuelled by the police reaction to the vigil for Everard, and anger over government plans to tighten the law on demonstrations.

(with inputs from agencies)

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