MASS Protests erupted across England on Saturday against plans to increase police powers to control protests.
Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, thousands of people marched in towns and cities in protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests – including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.
Throughout the day, thousands of people took part in what various police forces described as “peaceful” Kill the Bill protests in regions including London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, Dorset plus Avon and Somerset.
By Saturday evening, the Metropolitan Police said that “a small minority” of protestors, who were not social distancing, were still in London’s Parliament Square.
Arrests were being made after they turned down requests to leave, police said.
The Metropolitan Police later said that 10 officers had been injured, “none of are believed to be serious”, and that 26 people had been arrested for a variety of offences.
Dozens of police with riot helmets had arrived in Westminster as protesters continued the stand-off with officers.
The majority of protesters from the Kill the Bill demonstration, who gathered at Parliament Square earlier in the day, had dispersed several hours earlier.
Those still present shouted “shame on you” repeatedly at officers.
The remaining protesters marched down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where violent scuffles broke out with police.
Projectiles were thrown by demonstrators and several people were led away in handcuffs.
Earlier, peaceful scenes saw demonstrators, including many who carried anti-sexism placards and chanted “women scared everywhere, police and Government do not care”, pass Downing Street.
Organisers reminded demonstrators to stay socially distanced as crowds grew to more than 300 in Parliament Square, where speeches were made opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Several women addressed the crowd and shared personal experiences of suffering abuse and being drugged.
After hearing from several speakers from various women’s rights groups, demonstrators dispersed peacefully just after midday.
Many people who were carrying Kill the Bill placards also gathered at Hyde Park in central London.
Demonstrators chanted and banged drums.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the crowds that the Bill as a “very dangerous, slippery slope,” as he defended the right to protest.
To cheers and applause, he said: “If we don’t protest, things don’t change.”
More than 1,000 people attended Bristol’s Kill the Bill protest, according to Avon and Somerset Police.
The force said that officers had sought to “engage with protesters” and to ensure the demonstration took place peacefully.
Placards carried by protesters included slogans such as “educate your sons”, “misogyny is the virus”, and “girls just wanna have fun-damental human rights”.
There was a low-key response from Northumbria Police as hundreds of people gathered beneath Grey’s Monument in Newcastle.
Protesters, including one who held up a placard saying “we will not be silenced”, cheered as a singer with a guitar performed in opposition to the proposed bill.
Demonstrators who marched from the monument through Newcastle city centre chanted: “Whose streets, our streets.”
Many took the knee at the Civic Centre and held a minute’s silence for victims of oppression, after which a round of applause broke out.
Dorset Police thanked those who took part in “peaceful protests” in Bournemouth and Weymouth, and stuck to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Dorset Police Superintendent Richard Bell said: “We have always sought to find the right balance between the rights of protesters and those of residents and businesses, while also considering the very real risks from the spread of the virus.”