Anti-lockdown protesters cause a scene in London on Freedom Day

Anti-lockdown protesters cause a scene in London on Freedom Day

Lots of people aren’t happy about England’s major new easing of Covid restrictions, but you wouldn’t think anti-lockdown protesters would be among them.

Coronavirus sceptics and anti-vaxxers have organised regular demonstrations since the pandemic first tore through the country, marching against stay-at-home orders, mask-wearing and other Government mandates.

And yet, if you thought they might take a break on so-called ‘Freedom Day’ – when legal rules on face coverings, social-distancing and mass gatherings were lifted – you’d be wrong.

The crowds were out in force on Monday, taking to the streets of London despite scorching temperatures, to continue their tirades against vaccines, the Government’s handling of the health crisis and, specifically, Boris Johnson.

Demonstrators held signs reading: “No to mandatory vaccines”,”fake pandemic”, and “jail [the] Sage medical advisers”.

Chanting “freedom” as they gathered in Parliament Square, participants demanded the Prime Minister’s arrest for “crimes against humanity” and hit out at the nation’s life-saving jab roll-out, clamouring: “Leave our DNA alone”.

Other participants explained that they were there venting their fury against fines and punishments dished out to lockdown flouters over the course of the pandemic.

The city was awash with banner-brandishing anti-vaxxersPA

The demonstration swiftly spread up to the gates of the Palace of Westminster, leading Metropolitan Police officers to urge protesters to move out of the road.

An officer was seen to put a lock on a gate at the entrance to Parliament while some of those outside chanted “shame on police”.

Unmasked protesters clashed with guards outside the House of CommonsGetty Images

By 3.30pm, Scotland Yard confirmed that 11 people had been arrested over the action, which got increasingly heated as the afternoon wore on.

Footage posted on social media shows some protestors clashing with officers in the middle of the road near Westminster Underground station. Bottles were thrown in the direction of officers, many of whom were wearing helmets, as scuffles broke out.

The force tweeted:

Meanwhile, the hashtag “londonprotest” began to gather steam on Twitter, emerging as one of the top trends of the afternoon.

However, while some users focussed so-called “Covidiots”...

... Others were more taken with the caption used by the social media platform to describe the events:

However, naturally, there were also some familiar faces goading on the angry hoards:

The clashes came as Johnson prepared to lead a virtual press conference later in the day from his official country residence, Chequers, to mark the lifting of restrictions in England – a decision that has come under fierce criticism from fellow political leaders.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded the wholesale unlocking “reckless”, while Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said talk of “freedom day” is “not sensible” given the UK is recording around 50,000 new Covid cases per day.

The decision to take the final step of the road map out of lockdown means face masks are no longer mandatory in shops and on public transport, limits on gatherings have gone, and the work-from-home guidance has ended.

Nightclubs, theatres and restaurants can fully reopen, while pubs are no longer restricted to table service only.

But Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), stressed that if the public do not take a cautious approach to their rediscovered freedoms, the country could “move into the mid and high tens of thousands of deaths” in what he called the “biggest wave of Covid infection that we have ever seen”.

Since declaring July 19 “Freedom Day”, the Government has repeatedly called on businesses and members of the public to exercise caution and personal responsibility.

However, as the latest round of protests show, some people have never been willing to approach the crisis with vigilance and care, and it’s unlikely they’re going to start now.

The Conversation (0)