Clashes between police and coronavirus conspiracy theorists in London today left two officers in need of hospital treatment for head injuries.
Anti-lockdown demonstrators were pictured with blood streaming down their faces after violence erupted at the rally at Trafalgar Square this afternoon.
The Metropolitan Police said 16 people had been arrested and nine officers had sustained injuries.
Thousands of people massed in Trafalgar Square on Saturday carrying a variety of signs, flags and placards to take part in a ‘we do not consent’ rally – with none appearing to wear face coverings or to social distance.
Members of the crowd threw bottles at police and chanted ‘pick your side’, while officers used batons against them.
Demonstrators accused the Government of ‘tyranny’ for implementing sweeping emergency measures to control the spread of the disease.
Some compared a potential Covid-19 vaccine to ‘cyanide’ and others held placards with a quote by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who said: ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, eventually people will believe it.’
According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker there have been nearly 32,700,000 cases and almost 1 million deaths worldwide, less than a year since the disease started spreading.
One woman was pictured holding a sign saying ‘a hug a day keeps the Covid away’ while another suggested the UK is about to be hit by a second wave because it ‘fits the political agenda’.
Officers were seen searching a man and confiscating a makeshift riot shield he was carrying.
At least three protesters had to be treated by medical staff at the protest, which moved from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park.
Arrests were for a variety of offences including breaching Coronavirus regulations, assaulting a police officer, public order offences and violent disorder.
Speakers at today’s rally included conspiracy theorist David Icke, who addressed the crowd while protesters chanted ‘freedom’.
Piers Corbyn, the 73-year-old brother of former Labour leader Jeremy, was pictured punching the air as he gave a speech to demonstrators.
Branding the protest as ‘not acceptable’, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, stressed that large gatherings, including protests, were still banned to stop the spread of Covid-19.
He added: ‘The reckless and violent behaviour of some protestors has left hard-working police officers injured and put the safety of our city, which is at a critical moment in the fight against this virus, at risk. This is totally unacceptable.
‘We cannot let the sacrifices Londoners have made be undermined by the selfish behaviour of a small number.
‘Violence of this kind towards officers will not be tolerated and perpetrators will feel the full force of the law.’
He tweeted: ‘I urge all protestors [sic] to leave now. Large gatherings are banned for a reason – you are putting the safety of our city at risk.’
It comes after another anti-lockdown rally at Trafalgar Square last week which saw more than a dozen officers injured and 32 people arrested.
After today’s event, Met Police Commander Ade Adelekan said there ‘appeared to be no effort by organisers to engage with crowds and keep those assembling safe from transmitting the virus’.
He added: ‘This lack of action voided the risk assessment submitted by event organisers the night before.
‘Therefore, today’s demonstration was no longer exempt from the Coronavirus regulations. In the interest of public safety, officers then worked quickly to disperse crowds.
‘However, I am very frustrated to see that nine officers were injured during clashes with a small minority of protesters.
‘This is especially saddening in light of the injuries sustained by officers last weekend.’
The Met said it had been engaging with organisers throughout the week to remind them of their legal obligations and explaining the events could be in breach of coronavirus regulations.
While protests are exempt from the ‘rule of six’ in England, organisers must submit a risk assessment and comply with social distancing.
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