The brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was one of 19 protesters arrested on Saturday, as small demonstrations against the coronavirus lockdown took place across the country.
Protesters gathered on green spaces across the UK holding placards describing the lockdown rules as unlawful and claiming that the government measures were suppressing civil rights.
In Hyde Park, London, 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 and making 19 arrests.
Corbyn’s brother, Piers, was taken away after using a megaphone to declare that 5G and the coronavirus pandemic were linked and branding the pandemic as a “pack of lies to brainwash you and keep you in order”.
He also said “vaccination is not necessary” and that “5G towers will be installed everywhere”, adding: “5G enhances anyone who’s got illness from Covid, so they work together.”
There is no evidence to link 5G and Covid-19 and scientists fear that a rise in measles among children can be attributed in part to unfounded fears about vaccines.
Corbyn was taken away after declining to leave when asked by a police officer and refusing to give his details when asked.
A flyer advertising the protest called for “no to mandatory vaccines, no to the new normal, and no to the unlawful lockdown”.
David Samson, 50, a finance worker, who attended the protests told the Press Association news agency: “I never thought I’d see in my generation the suppressing of civil rights [over a] fake virus. This is nothing compared to what’s coming.”
There was a large round of boos whenever protesters were arrested, and repeated shouts of “jail Bill Gates”.
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: “With the easing of restrictions we fully expected open spaces to be busy this weekend.
“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 10 being issued with a fixed-penalty notice.”
A separate protest in Southampton saw about a dozen protesters gather on Southampton Common, holding placards saying “Stop the Lies”, “Say no to tyranny” and “Fight 4 Freedom”.
One protester, Dee, who did not wish to give her surname, said her job in the hair and beauty industry had been hit by the crisis. She said: “I am here because I am worried about civil liberties being taken away.
“Reading the Coronavirus Act that has gone through parliament, it seems there are changes being made which infringe our freedom. And I am worried the media has run away with the Covid-19 thing and blown it all out of proportion.”
In Belfast, police monitored a crowd of about 20 people who had gathered in Ormeau Park to denounce the lockdown measures. Officers warned participants to socially distance and they complied. The gathering dispersed without incident after an hour.
Protests also took place on Glasgow Green in Scotland, with estimates of about 40 to 50 people taking part. People at the event 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”.
Demonstrations also took place across Europe. In Germany the death toll from the virus has been lower than most of its European neighbours with some lockdown measures already relaxed.
However, protests against the measures that Chancellor Angela Merkel insists are needed to slow down the outbreak have grown with demonstrations held for a second weekend.
In the UK flyers for about 60 protests to be held in parks in cities such as Manchester, Leicester and Southampton were circulated online. It is understood they were produced by the little-known UK Freedom Movement, which is thought to have links to the far right. In the US, conservative figures and rightwing groups have backed protests against stay-at-home rules in many states.