Thousands of maskless demonstrators took to the streets of central London to protest against the government’s expanded anti-coronavirus restrictions, sparking clashes with police.
Some in the crowd threw bottles at police, who used their batons against protesters and left some with visible injuries, according to Sky News. Many held placards with anti-lockdown and anti-mask messages, such as “This is Tyranny.” Sky showed images of a man with a bloodied head and said conspiracy theorists had addressed the crowd.
“Sadly, some officers have been injured while engaging with people,” the Metropolitan Police tweeted, saying some of the crowd has moved on to Hyde Park. “We are asking those attending to disperse.”
Public frustration has mounted as several European countries, including Britain, fight to contain the resurgence of coronavirus with piecemeal measures dubbed “lockdown lite.” Hospitalizations are climbing following a surge in cases to record levels in some countries. The U.K. reported more than 6,042 new cases on Saturday, down from a record 6,874 a day earlier.
There have been repeated anti-lockdown protests in London and Germany. Bar and restaurant owners in Marseille, France demonstrated as authorities ordered them to close for at least two weeks. There’s also dissent in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government: at least 40 members of parliament for the ruling Conservative Party have backed draft legislation that would give legislators more powers to challenge measures imposed by the government.
The London demonstration lost its exemption from rules that prohibit gatherings of more than six people, the police said, after protesters failed to stick to the organizers’ pledge to socially distance.
The London protest came days after Johnson’s government expanded restrictions to try to contain the surge in new cases. Restaurants and bars were ordered to close at 10 p.m. and plans to allow live audiences back into sporting events were scrapped. The government threatened higher fines for people failing to wear face coverings where required, and said restrictions could be tightened further if the virus continues to run out of control.
The U.K. risks “many more deaths, many more families losing loved ones before their time” if people fail to do their part, the prime minister said in a televised address on Sept. 22. “The tragic reality of having Covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.”
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