Arrests made as anti-lockdown protesters chanting 'freedom' clash with police

Anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police at marches on Saturday as hundreds took to the streets in a fight against coronavirus restrictions.

Police have made 15 arrests in Liverpool while three were detained in Ipswich and two were arrested in Bournemouth at the time of writing.

The protest in Liverpool began at around 1pm and started with around 100 people gathering on Church Street in the city centre before the group grew in size.

Some protesters were reportedly pepper sprayed as they grappled with officers on the ground.

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Those arrested were held on suspicion of breaches of coronavirus regulations and committing public order offences.

Chief Superintendent Ngaire Waine, of Merseyside Police, said the protesters were hurling ‘mindless abuse’ at police and condemned their actions.

She said: ‘The vast majority of people in Merseyside have made huge sacrifices since March, missing weddings, funerals and family celebrations in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.

‘We have seen infection rates driven down in Merseyside thanks to the commitment of so many people, and already more than 140,000 have taken part in a mass testing pilot here in Merseyside to help the national effort to protect life and get back to normality. They are a credit to this county.

‘So it will be incredibly frustrating for all those people to see that a minority of selfish individuals chose to flout laws brought in to protect the lives of people, putting our communities and themselves at risk.’

A dispersal order was put in place in Liverpool city centre ahead of the unlawful gathering.

Under the rules of the lockdown no more than two people from different households are allowed to meet up outdoors.

Many protesters were pictured ignoring social distancing and not wearing a mask.

Superintendent Ngaire Waine said the protesters actions have put the health of others at risk.

She said: ‘We have arrested 15 people so far and dispersed many more. Our officers – deployed to encourage people to do the right thing and to carry out enforcement to protect the public – have been subjected to mindless abuse from many of those gathered, but continued to carry out their duties with complete professionalism.

‘This pandemic has, understandably, left many fearful of contracting and passing on coronavirus. The sight of a large group in the city centre will alarm many who are now well aware of the risk large groups can pose to the spreading of this virus.’

She said that those who refused orders to leave the area will be faced with enforcement action.

‘Their actions have posed a significant risk to public health, and we will continue to study CCTV and bodycam to identify offenders and bring them to justice,’ she said.

There were similar scenes on the south coast, with people seen marching through Bournemouth holding placards reading ‘freedom’ and ‘the pandemic is over’.

It is the second week in a row anti-lockdown protesters took to the streets in the seaside town.

Around 100 people gathered in the area of The Square before being dispersed at around 2.45pm, according to the Bournemouth Echo.

The Ipswich Star reports that three were arrested during anti-lockdown protests in the town.  It prompted warnings from Suffolk Police that gatherings will not be tolerated and there is no exemption for people participating in protests.

The demonstrations come as the UK records another 341 deaths, bringing the total toll to 54,626.

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