Fourteen people have been arrested at an anti-lockdown protest in Bristol, which went ahead despite police warnings. About 400 people gathered on the city’s College Green at midday on Saturday before marching through the city centre, in protest against lockdown measures.
The event took place in defiance of the national lockdown restrictions in England, which ban gatherings of more than two people, and warnings from police that the event was unlawful.
Many demonstrators carried placards calling for an end to the restrictions, with slogans such is “fear is the current control”. They also chanted “freedom”. One attendee was health worker Louise Hampton, who made headlines in August after she posted a video in which she appeared to suggest the coronavirus pandemic did not exist. Her employer, a major NHS provider, launched an investigation into her actions.
Avon and Somerset police said they arrested a number of people who had been identified as leading the demonstration for breaching coronavirus regulations. One man was also arrested after an officer was assaulted, police said.
Prior to the event, police made it clear they would take action should the event proceed, giving protesters “firm warnings they will be breaking the law”.
“Officers have been engaging with Stand Up Bristol, the organisers of Saturday’s event, to explain the rules and to encourage them to postpone it,” police said in a statement on Thursday. “By law, anyone organising or facilitating a gathering of more than 30 people is liable to a fixed penalty notice of £10,000 while those participating in a gathering of more than two people can be fined £200.”
Following the arrests on Saturday afternoon, Ch Insp Mark Runacres said that police “couldn’t legally or morally facilitate today’s event”. “While we understand the right to freedom of expression is an important part of our democracy, protests aren’t currently allowed under coronavirus regulations,” he said. “We warned the organisers repeatedly of the consequences should they press ahead with their plans, both in terms of the enforcement action we would take and the risk it presented in spreading Covid-19, but sadly they chose to ignore these.”
Ahead of the event, the mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, also urged people to “find safer ways to make their voices heard”. “Public health advice and government legislation in relation to Covid-19 lockdown are in place to protect individuals and communities,” he said. “Whilst I recognise the current lockdown is a difficult period for everyone we must all follow these rules if we are to see an end to restrictions.”