Police arrested 32 people on Saturday after hundreds of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protesters rallied in central London, breaching Britain’s coronavirus social distancing rules.
The Metropolitan Police said they ordered the crowd to leave Trafalgar Square but were met with refusal from many protesters and “pockets of hostility and outbreaks of violence towards officers.”
They arrested 32 people for offences including violent disorder, assault and breaches of coronavirus rules, while two officers suffered minor injuries.
“We remain in the middle of a public health crisis, and gathering in large numbers – such as today’s protest – puts others at risk,” said Superintendent Emma Richards.
“The amount of hostility shown towards officers, who were simply there to keep people safe, is unacceptable,” Richards said.
Some people at the “Resist and act for freedom” protest linked arms and tried to block the police from entering the square, while a minority scuffled with the police and shouted abuse at them.
The police had urged people to observe the “rule of six,” which Prime Minister Boris Johnson reintroduced on Wednesday in a bid to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections over the last two weeks.
Reports on Saturday said Johnson was considering imposing a second nationwide lockdown in the coming days after recent measures, including local lcokdowns in several cities and regions, failed to halt the surge of new cases.
The British Medical Association, a doctors’ trade union, urged the government to take tougher measures and refocus Britain’s “woeful” testing programme to prioritize people with symptoms and healthcare workers.