At least 36 people were arrested for ‘breaching Covid regulations’ after a march of thousands of protesters through central London came under attack by riot police on Saturday with some fighting back.
Protesters included people who had also been attacked by police at the vigil following the death of Sarah Everard in south London on Clapham Common the previous weekend.
A marcher on Saturday’s demonstration reported to News Line: ‘They kettled us down on Jermyn Street and police vans zoomed up at either end of the street and ran us down.
‘These TSG (Territorial Support Group) guys can actually run. A few of us escaped through the shopping arcade that runs through to Piccadilly.
‘The police were going for it and really smashed and grabbed the others at the front.
‘While we were at the BBC the march was split, police vans arrived, everybody scarpered.
‘The police came at full speed, quite intimidating.
‘Walking to Trafalgar Square, four police vans chased us and TSG arrested several there along the way.
‘Around a hundred officers in riot helmets and carrying shields arrived.’
Before Saturday’s march, more than 60 MPs, peers and others wrote to Home Secretary Patel calling for laws to be changed to allow peaceful protests during lockdown.
The letter, organised by campaign groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch, urged Patel to issue guidance to police forces on ‘facilitating’ protests.
It condemned her for allowing the police to criminalise people for protesting, saying that it ‘is not acceptable and is arguably not lawful’.
Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns at Liberty, said: ‘In a healthy democracy, protest is a critical way we can fight for what we believe in.
‘The government’s current quasi-ban on protest is completely unacceptable.
‘Last week, the police conceded protest is not banned under the lockdown regulations, but used them to threaten then arrest demonstrators anyway.
‘The Home Secretary must immediately issue guidance to all police forces to ensure socially distanced protests can go ahead and create an explicit exemption for protest in the current regulations.’
Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said: ‘A country cannot be described as a democracy if people do not have the freedom to protest.
‘The harrowing scenes of police officers using force against women at Clapham Common recently were avoidable and wrong.
‘Over the past week, many more demonstrators and even legal observers have been arrested or fined.
‘This stain on our democracy is a direct consequence of this government’s disrespect for the most basic of British democratic freedoms.’