LONDON: At least 26 people have been arrested after clashes between officers and demonstrators at a “Kill the Bill” protest in central London.
Projectiles were thrown around as Metropolitan Police officers pushed protesters away in an effort to disperse crowds and 10 officers are said to have received injuries during the operation on Saturday.
The Met Police said 26 people have been arrested for a variety of offences including assault on police and breach of the peace. In one instance, a woman was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon after a knife was recovered.
“The vast majority of people who turned out in central London today did so while adhering to social distancing. They engaged with my officers when required and left when asked – I would like to thank them for doing so,” said Commander Ade Adelekan, who led the policing operation in Parliament Square in London on Saturday.
“However, a small minority did not engage despite the repeated efforts of officers on the ground. This left us with no option but to move to an enforcement stage and arrests have been made,” he said.
“We remain in the middle of a global pandemic and we have made great progress in controlling the spread of the virus; we will not allow the selfish actions of a small number of people to put Londoners progress in jeopardy,” he added.
The so-called “Kill the Bill” demonstrations also took place in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Newcastle, Brighton, Bournemouth, Weymouth and Luton to protest against the Police and Crime Bill – which propose to give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those which are deemed too noisy or a nuisance. Anyone refusing to follow police directions about a protest could be fined up to 2,500 pounds under the law.
Former Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn was among those who addressed the protest in London and said the bill would prevent protest without police approval.
“Stand up for the right to protest, stand up for the right to have your voice heard,” he told the crowds.
Protesters also carried anti-sexism placards and chanted “women scared everywhere, police and government do not care” as they marched past Downing Street.
In Bristol, more than 1,000 people gathered for a peaceful protest, after demonstrations on March 23 and March 26 ended in clashes with police, and in Manchester, people were seen sitting on tram tracks before police moved in.
Large gatherings and demonstrations continue to remain restricted under the coronavirus lockdown rules in the UK.