Covid: More than 150 arrests at London anti-lockdown protest

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Protester being arrestedImage source, PA Media
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Police urged people to leave central London after the protest

More than 150 people have been arrested during anti-lockdown protests in London's West End.

The group Save Our Rights UK said it held the protest, which started from Marble Arch on Saturday afternoon.

The Metropolitan Police said it had been a "challenging day" for its officers.

It said it made arrests for a number of different offences, including breaching coronavirus restrictions, assaulting a police officer and illegal drugs.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Police officers urged protesters to leave the demonstration and return home

Police officers were booed and met with chants of "shame on you" as protesters, many not wearing face masks, ignored requests to leave.

Earlier 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".

They had earlier been warned by police that protests were not acceptable exemptions to the ban on gathering under current coronavirus regulations in England.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The protest had started at Marble Arch and protesters moved to Oxford Street

Groups of police officers were seen running towards protesters in Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street and Regent Street.

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

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Disorder was reported in central London, including in Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street and Regent Street
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Protests are not permitted under current coronavirus regulations in England

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

The Met said coaches taking protesters into London had earlier been intercepted and those who did not turn back and go home were either arrested or given fines.

'Aggression and disruption'

Ch Supt 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."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Metropolitan Police said people were arrested for various offences, including breaching coronavirus restrictions

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."

It comes as a further 479 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported in the UK, bringing the total to 58,030. There were also a further 15,871 positive cases registered in the past 24 hours.

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