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Covid: Clashes as police shut down protest over new rules

Image copyright PA Media Police have clashed with demonstrators at a protest in central London against coronavirus restrictions.Officers used batons to control the crowd, after bottles and water were thrown by demonstrators massed in Trafalgar Square.At least three protesters and four officers were injured, while 10 people were arrested. The Met Police said the protest…

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PA Media

Police have clashed with demonstrators at a protest in central London against coronavirus restrictions.

Officers used batons to control the crowd, after bottles and water were thrown by demonstrators massed in Trafalgar Square.

At least three protesters and four officers were injured, while 10 people were arrested.

The Met Police said the protest was being shut down because the crowd was not social distancing.

Thousands had gathered in central London to protest against the latest government rules, with very few wearing masks.

Protests are exempt from the rule-of-six restrictions, but demonstrators must social distance; organisers must also submit a risk assessment.

Rules in England limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to six people, with some exceptions.

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Media captionProtesters against the government’s coronavirus restrictions are rallying in central London

Officers penned the crowd in Trafalgar Square as water and bottles were thrown at them by demonstrators – with some chanting “pick your side”.

Two police officers required hospital treatment.

Police removed sound equipment and used batons against protesters, leaving some with visible injuries.

The majority of demonstrators in Trafalgar Square have now been dispersed by police, but the Met said some had moved to Hyde Park.

Reacting, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The reckless and violent behaviour of some protesters 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.”

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EPA

Demonstrators were asked to leave and police said anyone who stayed could be subject to enforcement.

In a statement, the Met said: “Crowds in Trafalgar Square have not complied with the conditions of their risk assessment and are putting people in danger of transmitting the virus.

“This has voided their risk assessment and we have informed the event organisers they are no longer exempt from the regulations.

“By leaving now, you can keep yourself safe and avoid any enforcement action being taken by officers,” the statement added.

Earlier, police confiscated a makeshift riot shield from one man.

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EPA

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Large crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square earlier

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Getty Images

The “we do not consent” rally came a week after a separate event which saw more than a dozen officers injured when a “small minority” targeted police and more than 32 arrests were made.

Commander Ade Adelekan, who is leading the Met operation, previously said that while there was “great frustration” at the regulations, they were designed to keep people safe from the virus.

“By flagrantly gathering in large numbers and ignoring social distancing, you are putting your health and the health of your loved ones at risk,” he said.

He added that he would not tolerate police being targeted during protests and officers would “respond quickly to any scenes of violence”.

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.