Dozens arrested as lockdown protesters clash with police

By Tom Pilgrim and Laura Parnaby, PA
·2-min read

Police have arrested more than 60 people amid anti-lockdown protests in central London.

Hundreds of demonstrators including a man dressed as Santa Claus marched through Westminster chanting “shame on you” and “freedom”, causing traffic disruption on Saturday afternoon.

The Metropolitan Police said officers had made more than 60 arrests by 3pm.

The force said: “These were for a number of different offences, including breaching coronavirus restrictions.

“We expect this number to rise. We continue to urge people to go home.”

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.

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

Anti-lockdown protest
Police detain a man during an anti-lockdown protest in Oxford Circus (Victoria Jones/PA)

Protesters, 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”.

Several people were handcuffed by officers, while police action was met with booing as demonstrators, many not wearing face masks, ignored requests to go home.

Responding to the 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.”

Anti-lockdown protest
The protests caused traffic disruption in central London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Protest is not a permitted exemption to the prohibition on gatherings under current coronavirus regulations in England and those who attend risk enforcement action by officers, the Metropolitan Police had warned ahead of the weekend.

The grassroots group Save Our Rights UK, which says it is working for democracy, appeared to be leading the protest, called Unite For Freedom – Time For Action.

The group used its Twitter account throughout the afternoon to encourage people to head to central London locations.

Rights groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch argued that the right to safely protest should be explicitly outlined as an exemption in regulations covering England’s tiered restrictions, due to come into force next week.