Police arrested three people and three officers were injured during anti-lockdown protests on Saturday that saw thousands descend on central London and hundreds of tennis balls launched at the Houses of Parliament.
The Metropolitan police said three people were arrested at the protests – for breach of the peace and assault on police, plus one was already wanted for a previous assault – and three officers suffered minor injuries.
Thousands of protesters – many not wearing masks and carrying anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine placards – marched through London towards Parliament Square.
They threw hundreds of tennis balls, some bearing messages, over the fences around the Houses of Parliament and let off flares and threw tennis balls outside Downing Street to chants of “shame on you” and boos directed at No 10.
Meanwhile, in Hyde Park, officers were photographed trying to remove anti-vaccine stickers from their vans.
Iain McCausland, who travelled to London from Devon for the protest, said: “The main reason I’m here is because I feel this lockdown has come at the cost of our liberty and rights. Our freedom to assemble, our freedom to travel and work. I’m really quite angry with the government, so are everyone here.”
Kayleigh Brooke vowed to continue protesting until the government’s sweeping emergency powers to handle the pandemic are removed. “We want the Coronavirus Act 2020 gone, and we will keep on protesting until that happens,” she said.
The 29-year-old from Manchester said she has been camping for four weeks on Clapham Common in south London to protest the vaccination programme.
On Saturday evening, the Met said all of the day’s demonstrations had concluded.
Ch Supt Karen Findlay, gold commander of the operation, said: “The significant majority of those protesting today engaged in a positive manner with our officers. We did experience small pockets of antisocial behaviour in Whitehall which involved missiles being thrown at officers, but these were dealt with quickly and effectively.”
It was one of several protests in the capital over the weekend – including a national People’s Assembly demonstration against the government on Saturday, attended by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and an Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square on Sunday.
The Met arrested 12 people in three raids across the capital as part of a crackdown ahead of this weekend, warning that it had “zero tolerance for disorder or criminality”.
Police seized items including bamboo structures, lock-on equipment and other items that it said “could be used to cause criminal damage and obstructions”.
Extinction Rebellion said four female members were arrested on Friday at one of its east London warehouses where they had been “creating art” for the Free the Press march on Sunday.