Tens of thousands of anti-lockdown protesters marched through central London today calling for ‘freedom’
Crowds demanded an end to all Covid-19 lockdown regulations after Freedom Day was delayed from June 21
People held signs reading ‘freedom is not for trade’ and ‘mask wearing zombies wake up or comply and die’
Protesters held placards calling for police to ‘arrest Matt Hancock’ after he was caught breaching Covid rules
Health Secretary was accused of hypocrisy over a video showing him kissing married aide Gina Coladangelo
Crowds threw tennis balls at Parliament before descending on Downing Street, where they started booing
Tens of thousands of anti-lockdown protesters marched through central London and towards No10 today demanding the ‘arrest’ of Matt Hancock after he was caught breaching Covid rules by kissing his married aide while preaching the restrictions to the rest of the UK.
Anti-lockdown protesters were seen marching along through the capital before descending on Downing Street on Saturday as they called for ‘freedom’ and the end to all Covid lockdown regulations after Freedom Day was delayed from June 21.
As well as demanding the end to lockdown, protesters brandished placards that demanded police ‘arrest Matt Hancock‘ after he was caught breaching Covid safety regulations by kissing his married aide – despite asking the rest of the country to follow the strict restrictions.
The health secretary, 42, has been accused of hypocrisy over images and a subsequent video clip showing him kissing Gina Coladangelo at the Department for Health, despite championing draconian restrictions on ordinary citizens.
The crowds lobbed hundreds of tennis balls with ‘not very nice’ messages written on them towards the Houses of Parliament before gathering on Downing Street, where they started chanting ‘shame on you’ and pointing towards Number 10, followed by prolonged booing.
Tens of thousands of protesters had earlier marched through Oxford Street, Regent Street, Hyde Park and Northumberland Avenue as they held placards reading ‘the Boris variant’, ‘no to Covid vaccine’ and ‘no to Covid passport’.
One of the demonstrators holds up a sign as they marched through the streets of London to protest earlier this afternoon
Demonstrators then packed the streets outside Downing Street, where flares were set off and tennis balls were thrown towards Number 10, while loud chanting, whistling and music continued.
Members of the demonstration began dispersing at around 4pm, although many dedicated marchers still remain outside Downing Street and in Parliament Square.
Reclaim party leader Laurence Fox was among the tens of thousands of anti-lockdown protestors who attended Saturday’s protest and was seen shouting into a speaker as he stood on a barrier outside Downing Street.
Tensions appeared to increase as the crowds gathered near No 10 as anti-lockdown protesters were seen throwing fencing, which blocked them from the police officers who stood guard on the other side.
Hundreds of yellow tennis balls, which had ‘not very nice’ messages on them, were thrown on Downing Street and over the fence into the grounds of Parliament, with police officers having to duck and kick them out of the way.
Asked why protesters are throwing tennis balls, one man, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘They have little messages on them. Most of them are not very nice.’
Demonstrators packed the streets outside Downing Street in the afternoon, with flares are being set off, while the loud chanting, whistling and music continued
And adhesive stickers, some of which read ‘no to vaccine passports’ were put on police vehicles and ambulances, which were situated around Hyde Park.
People young and old all took part in the anti-lockdown demonstration, which saw people railing against lockdown restrictions, the coronavirus vaccine and Covid passports, which will be used to show travellers’ Covid vaccination status when abroad.
One woman stuck a string of face masks together to make a sign that read ‘freedom is not for trade’ while another protester brandished a placard reading ‘mask wearing zombies wake up or comply and die’.
After marching through well-known shopping destinations in central London, the protesters converged with Free Palestine protesters in Parliament Square on Saturday afternoon.
Police officers formed a line hoping to block the majority of marchers from filling the square, directing them instead back down Parliament Street.
Shirley Jones, a librarian from Crystal Palace, urged Boris Johnson to ‘sack the philandering and rule breaking’ after Mr Hancock was accused of hypocrisy for breaching Covid regulations to kiss his married aide.
She said: ‘I’d rather be doing something else with my weekend but I’m going to keep coming on these protests because I don’t trust what the Government is doing.
Protestors gathered in their thousands on the streets of central London during a anti-lockdown protest on Saturday
‘I don’t believe in wearing masks and I don’t believe in the vaccine, especially given my Caribbean heritage and the history of slavery.
‘There’s a huge mix of people here, all backgrounds and ages, yet what they’re saying is being ignored. The numbers who attend are always undermined.
‘We want the lockdown to end but we also want Boris Johnson to sack the philandering and rule breaking. He’s behind all of these rules and he didn’t even follow them himself.’
Kayleigh Brooke, 29, from Manchester, said she has been camped out for four weeks on Clapham Common in protest against the vaccine rollout.
Ms Brooke said she is taking part in the march because of her concerns around children getting the jab.
‘We want the Coronavirus Act 2020 gone, and we will keep on protesting until that happens.’
Drums, whistling and chanting could be heard for some distance around, while flags could be seen flying high above the crowds as they moved through central London.
Drums, whistling and chanting could be heard for some distance around, while flags could be seen flying high above the crowds as they moved through central London
One speaker stood on a plinth near Embankment Station and told crowds: ‘We are here to take our freedom back.’
Participant Iain McCausland travelled to London from Devon to attend the rally as he said the Covid lockdown has come at the cost of ‘liberty’.
He 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.’
There was a party atmosphere as the crowds headed down the Embankment past New Scotland Yard earlier on Saturday, while a DJ also played music out of the back of a lorry as the crowds weaved through the streets.
Photographs showed police officers walking through the crowds of thousands of anti-lockdown protesters as they stopped to gather in Hyde Park, while police motorbikes were seen in front of the crowds on Oxford Street.
There was a party atmosphere as the crowds headed down the Embankment past New Scotland Yard. Pictured: Protesters match down Oxford Street on Saturday
Tens of thousands of anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protesters were seen marching along Oxford Street in central London on Saturday after Freedom Day was delayed from June 21
Drums, whistling and chanting could be heard for some distance around, with people young and old taking part. Pictured: Protesters march down Regent Street during anti-lockdown protest on Saturday
‘Officers are out engaging with those demonstrating and working to minimalise disruption to local communities including disruption to the roads.’
Ahead of the protests yesterday, the Metropolitan Police confirmed they had been in contact with organisers of demonstrations throughout Westminster and areas of Lambeth and Southwark.
Chief Inspector Joe Stokoe from the Met’s Public Order Command, said: ‘We know a number of people will be visiting London on Saturday and Sunday in order to protest.
‘Our policing plan will be proportionate with officers engaging with those protesting to help them ensure any gathering is lawful, safe and doesn’t cause serious disruption to those Londoners who are out and enjoying their weekend.
‘We urge anyone coming to take part in a protest in London over the weekend to do so in a peaceful and responsible manner.
‘We will intervene as necessary to prevent disruptive or unruly behaviour or any action by individuals to intimidate or threaten members of the public, media or police officers.’
A young woman grinned as she brandished a placard reading ‘freedom to dance’ during a anti-lockdown protest on Oxford Street in central London
The Chief Inspector added that police believed certain protest groups were specifically intending to disrupt businesses and ‘potentially cause criminal damage to property’, adding that further action would be taken if such offences took place.
He added: ‘A number of highly specialist policing teams will remain on hand during the course of the weekend to deliver our policing plan. Our policing response will be dynamic and officers will act swiftly to any threat.’
The protest comes as Boris Johnson seemed to dismiss the prospect of easing the remaining coronavirus rules early, as he refused to rule out future lockdowns. He warned the nation should brace for a ‘rough winter’ whilst visiting a laboratory in Hertfordshire earlier this week.
The Prime Minister has delayed ‘Freedom Day’ by four weeks to July 19 – but a two week review will take place on July 5 to see if the return to normal can be moved forward.
Mr Johnson said ‘Delta’ variant cases, hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care are still rising and the country must therefore be ‘cautious’.
But he insisted it is ‘looking good’ for the rules to be lifted at the ‘terminus point’ of July 19 as he said the ‘vaccination rollout is going gangbusters’.
There was a party atmosphere as the crowds headed down the Embankment past New Scotland Yard, while a DJ (pictured) also played music from the back of a lorry as the atmosphere was jubilant
However, Mr Johnson declined to rule out reimposing draconian curbs later in the year as he warned ‘some new horror’ could emerge which ‘we simply haven’t budgeted for’.
Meanwhile, the anti-lockdown protesters also called for police to ‘arrest’ Matt Hancock after he was caught breaching Covid safety regulations by kissing his married aide.
Boris Johnson is being urged to sack Mr Hancock amid a tidal wave of hypocrisy allegations over images and a subsequent video clip showing the Health Secretary kissing his married aide Gina Coladangelo at the Department for Health.
Despite championing draconian restrictions on ordinary citizens, he kissed and embraced Mrs Coladangelo on May 6 – eleven days before the ban on hugging was lifted. Both are married with three children.
The Health Secretary’s wife of 15 years Martha Hancock today glanced at reporters as she left the couple’s London home wearing dark sunglasses, as Whitehall rumours claim she threw her husband – who she met at university – out of the family home.
A Savanta ComRes snap poll found the public wanted Mr Hancock to quit by a margin of 58 to 25. A separate YouGov survey had the margin at 49 to 25.
A mother was seen with her young child while another woman wore a traffic cone on her head during the anti-lockdown protest in London on Saturday
Mr Hancock had put Mrs Coladangelo, a friend from university, on the public payroll only last year. He made no comment on claims he was having an affair with the 43-year-old in his apology yesterday, but added: ‘I have let people down and am very sorry.’
Astonishingly, however, he refused to resign and, after crisis talks in No 10, the Prime Minister personally backed him to stay on and said he ‘considered the matter closed’.
Last night, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick backed the PM’s stance, adding that the public should allow Hancock to ‘get on with the job’.
He told BBC Radio’s 4 Any Questions: ‘There’s a task to be done, Matt is on the job doing that, and I think we should allow him to get on with the job.’
Today’s protest has not been the only march the capital has seen this week, as three police officers were injured when an anti-lockdown protest turned violent and cops were forced to make 14 arrests on Monday.
Anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police in central London on Monday as they demonstrated against the delay of Freedom Day by blocking roads and hugging strangers in defiance of Covid rules.
One woman stuck face masks together to make a sign that read ‘freedom is not for trade’ while another man brandished a placard reading ‘mask wearing zombies wake up or comply and die’
Earlier this week, police confirmed they arrested 14 people who were ‘obstructing’ roads and being ‘hostile to officers’ as they attempted to contain a large group of Covid sceptics in Parliament Square and on Whitehall – on what would have been the day social distancing measures were lifted across the UK.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said at the time: ‘We’ve made fourteen arrests while policing a demonstration in Westminster today. Three police officers were injured, thankfully their injuries are not serious.
‘Officers worked hard to minimise disruption to the Westminster community and to keep traffic and public transport moving.
‘Despite this, several people within the demonstration obstructed roads or became hostile to officers. Our operation will continue into the evening.’
Protesters offered ‘free hugs’ and demanded an end to all Covid restrictions held signs reading ‘your obedience is prolonging this nightmare’ and ‘our kids aren’t lab rats’ as they marched through the streets.