19 people have been arrested during a protest against coronavirus lockdown measures in Hyde Park on Saturday.
The arrests include the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Piers, who was taken away in handcuffs after he joined demonstrators with a megaphone proclaiming the debunked conspiracy that 5G and the pandemic are linked.
The London rally was one of many that took place across the country today as people flouted social distancing rules to group together in Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham and parts of Scotland.
The events have been advertised as ‘mass gatherings’, which are banned under lockdown rules. Many participants regurgitated conspiracy theories, with flyers advertising the protests saying ‘no to mandatory vaccines, no to the new normal, and no to the unlawful lockdown’.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) patrolled Platt Fields Park as people protested against the government’s restrictive measures to curb the spread of the disease.
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One told a local reporter: ‘I’m here because I don’t believe in the lockdown, I don’t believe in the virus one bit, I don’t believe in social distancing, I think it’s ridiculous.’
She described keeping healthy people indoors as ‘tyranny’ and added: ‘They’re just enforcing powers ready to eventually produce mandatory vaccines.’
Around a dozen people gathered together at Victoria Park, Bristol, for around an hour, with police watching from a distance.
Most of those there declined to be named and talked about how they
thought the lockdown was unnecessary, fear of coronavirus had been
whipped up by scaremongering in the media and by politicians, and how
it was part of an ongoing plot to take more control of society and
businesses, Bristol Live reports.
However, another ‘mass gathering’ publicised to be held at the city’s Brandon Hill attracted a police presence but no members of the public at all.
Most that took place around the country were small and passed without any incidents occurring. Many cities had zero protesters at the planned gatherings, including Cardiff and Leeds, while others such as in Sheffield, attracted more police than people.
In Belfast, police monitored a crowd of about 20 people who had gathered in Ormeau Park to denounce the lockdown measures.
Meanwhile, a 41-year-old man was charged with breach of the peace after a small protest against lockdown measures in Glasgow. About 40 to 50 people took part and reportedly chanted ‘experts lie – people die’, ‘don’t listen to the media, listen to the people’, ‘Nicola Sturgeon is a traitor’ and ‘we are not livestock’.
The Hyde Park protest was the biggest. About 50 people defied social distancing guidelines to gather close together at Speakers’ Corner, holding placards with slogans including ‘anti-vax deserves a voice’ and ‘freedom over fear’.
Dozens of police officers, including some on horseback, patrolled the protest, issuing 10 on-the-spot fines as well as the 19 arrests.
David Samson, 50, who said he works in finance, attended the protest and said: ‘I never thought I’d see in my generation the suppressing of civil rights over a ‘fake virus’’.
There was a large round of boos when one protester was taken away in handcuffs by police.
Another demonstrator, 62-year-old Catharine Harvey, said she was defying the rules to highlight the ‘devastation this lockdown has caused’. The shop owner said: ‘Developing countries will have no trade, no tourism. I have had to close my shop on Columbia Road flower market.
‘The effects of the lockdown are far, far worse than the virus – mental health, domestic violence, shops are closed, theatres, cinemas, restaurants. It’s unnecessary.’
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said most protesters were ‘largely compliant’ with government guidance on social distancing.
‘With the easing of restrictions we fully expected open spaces to be busy this weekend’ she said.
‘It was pleasing to see that people were largely compliant with the Government guidance. Where they weren’t, and after we engaged with them, they quickly were.
‘It was disappointing that a relatively small group in Hyde Park came together to protest the regulations in clear breach of the guidance, putting themselves and others at risk of infection.
‘Officers once again, took a measured approach and tried to engage the group to disperse.
‘They clearly had no intention of doing so, and so it did result in 19 people being arrested, and a further ten being issued with a fixed penalty notice.’
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