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16 nabbed from anti-lockdown protest in London

Published : 27 Sep 2020, 21:48

  DF News Desk

Police officers detain a protester during an anti-coronavirus restrictions protest in Trafalgar Square in London, Britain, on Sept. 26, 2020. Photo Xinhua.

Sixteen people have been arrested and nine police officers were injured during clashes at the anti-lockdown demonstrations in central London on Saturday, reported Xinhua, quoting the Metropolitan Police.

Thousands of people massed in Trafalgar Square on Saturday carrying a variety of signs, flags and placards to take part in a "we do not consent" rally. None of the protesters appeared to wear face coverings or to maintain social distance, the London-based Evening Standard newspaper reported.

Officers clashed with crowds when they tried to shut the event down due to breaches of social-distancing rules. Bottles were thrown and police used batons against protesters, leaving some with visible injuries. At least three protesters and one officer were treated by medical staff, said the newspaper.

"As the crowds began to swell in Trafalgar Square, it became impossible for people maintain social distancing and keep each other safe. Likewise, there appeared to be no efforts by organizers to engage with crowds and keep those assembling safe from transmitting the virus," said Commander Ade Adelekan who led Saturday's police operation.

"This lack of action voided the risk assessment submitted by event organisers the night before. Therefore, today's (Saturday's) demonstration was no longer exempt from the Coronavirus regulations. In the interest of public safety, officers then worked quickly to disperse crowds," said Adelekan in a statement.

"Sadly, nine police officers were also injured while policing the event. Two of which required hospital treatment for head injuries," read the statement.

The London police said it had been engaging with organizers throughout the week to remind them of their legal obligations and explaining the events could be in breach of coronavirus regulations.

While protests are exempt from the "rule of six" in England, organizers must submit a risk assessment and comply with social distancing.

The anti-lockdown protest took place as London is being placed on the national COVID-19 "watch list" as an area of high concern "because of a spike in cases and hospital admissions".

Advisors of the British government had warned the capital's R rate, which refers to the number of people that an infected individual goes on to infect, may now be as high as 1.5 -- the same level seen in the North West, North East and the Midlands, which have all been stung by additional COVID-19 measures, the Daily Mail newspaper reported.

The warning came at a time when countries, such as Britain, China, Russia and the United States, are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.

The British government's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said earlier that it is possible that some vaccine could be available in small amounts later this year, but it is more likely that a vaccine will be available early next year, although that is not guaranteed.