Protesters and the police clashed in London over a controversial policing bill which led to 26 arrests and 10 injured police officers.
Protesters in the ‘thousands’ descended on Central London to protest the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill earlier today (Saturday, April 3) which started in Hyde Park and ended in protesters being ‘kettled’ near the Strand.
The protest was peaceful in the early stages, with groups blocking traffic as they walked from Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace before setting up camp in Parliament Square.
It was there the violence began as protesters held up traffic on the streets around the square, including a McDonald’s van.
Police were criticised for their heavy handed approach, with some reports claiming that PAVA spray, similar to pepper spray, had been used on protesters.
A spokesperson for the Met confirmed that an officer used PAVA spray while assisting a colleague who was being assaulted and to prevent further injury.
The 26 arrests made were for a variety of suspected offences including assault on police and breach of the peace, with one woman arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon after a knife was found.
Ten officers were also believed to be injured, though none of them seriously.
Footage emerged of two legal observers being taken away by the police, which will concern rights organisations in light of the policing bill being protested, but the Met did not confirm whether they had been arrested.
The new policing bill, which has passed its second reading, would give police chiefs the power to impose a start and finish time on demonstrations, set noise limits and apply the rules to just one person.
This means an individual holding a placard with a megaphone could be fined up to £2,500 if they refuse police direction.
Additionally, criminal damage to statues and memorials, like those witnessed during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The protests come after violent clashes between police and protesters across the country in recent weeks and a heavy-handed approach by the Metropolitan Police on some people at the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard – a case in which a police officer has been charged with her murder – which was roundly criticised.
There was further criticism at the Met’s handling of protesters today.
Commander Ade Adelekan, who led today’s policing operation, said: “The vast majority of people who turned out in central London today did so while adhering to social distancing.
“They engaged with my officers when required and left when asked – I would like to thank them for doing so.
“However, a small minority did not engage despite the repeated efforts of officers on the ground. This left us with no option but to move to an enforcement stage and arrests have been made.
“This has been another challenging day for officers on the ground and I want to thank them for their efforts throughout the course of today.
“We remain in the middle of a global pandemic and we have made great progress in controlling the spread of the virus; we will not allow the selfish actions of a small number of people to put Londoners progress in jeopardy.”