Hundreds of conspiracy theorists gathered in central London yesterday to protest against coronavirus restrictions in the UK as infections worsen.
Scuffles broke out as police moved in on demonstrators in Trafalgar Square, who formed human blockades in an attempt to prevent arrests and initially forced officers to move back.
Demonstrators advanced on police while shouting “choose your side” and some were seen throwing objects at officers during a largely peaceful demonstration.
At around 3pm, the Metropolitan Police announced that it would be dispersing protesters and making arrests after trying to “explain, engage and encourage them to leave throughout” the day.
Footage showed several lines of officers in riot gear near the National Gallery, with mounted police on standby, as police repeatedly told people to leave the rally. “Protesters have remained, putting themselves and others at risk,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said.
“This, coupled with pockets of hostility and outbreaks of violence towards officers, means we will now be taking enforcement action to disperse those who remain in the area. Those who remain may get arrested.”
The Resist And Act For Freedom rally was the latest in a series of protests by a wide-ranging coalition of groups who oppose lockdown restrictions.
Supporters of the QAnon theory, which centres on claims that Satan-worshiping paedophiles are running a global child sex-trafficking ring, could be seen in the crowd.
Several people held up signs opposing vaccinations and 5G technology, while others waved St George flags.
The crowd cheered as a speaker told them that coronavirus was a “novel coronavirus, like a novel, like a story – it’s all made up”. Another woman claimed that 5G “grows cancer”.
One protester held a banner calling for the government’s Sage scientific advisers to be sacked, while another’s declared Covid-19 a “hoax”.
The protest had been advertised by organisers as a “medic-focused event with expert speakers, NHS and police whistleblowers. Protecting our families, our elderly and our children”.
The speakers included high-profile conspiracy theorists who have been speaking at a number of similar rallies in recent months.
A lead organiser is a nurse whose registration was suspended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in July for spreading false information about coronavirus and vaccines.
Other speakers included the chair of the right-wing Irish Freedom Party, a Republican politician from Minnesota and prolific anti-5G campaigner Mark Steele, who was jailed for shooting a teenage girl in the head in the 1990s.
It comes amid concern that the spread of disinformation on coronavirus and potential vaccines will worsen the pandemic.
Police had appealed for the public to adhere to restrictions and social distancing over the weekend, as some forces mounted extra patrols to enforce the law.