London, Apr 25 (PTI) Eight police officers were injured and five people arrested during an anti-lockdown protest that involved clashes in small pockets in central London, the Metropolitan Police said.
Demonstrators marched along Oxford Street and other central areas of the UK capital city before gathering at Hyde Park on Saturday, where some hurled bottles and other items as the police when they tried to disperse the large crowds.
Protesters, holding placards calling for an end to lockdown rules, could be heard sloganeering against curbs such as face masks.
'Eight officers were injured as they worked to disperse crowds in Hyde Park,' the Met Police said.
'Two officers were taken to hospital. Thankfully, they are not believed to be seriously injured. Five people were arrested for offences including assault on police and are now in custody,' it said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel took to Twitter to condemn the 'criminal minority' behind the unrest and pledged tougher sentences for such attacks on police officers.
'Our brave police are the best of us and should not be the target of senseless violence by a criminal minority for just doing their job,' said Patel.
'I am getting tough on these thugs and will be doubling the sentence for assault of an emergency worker. I wish the officers a speedy recovery,' she said.
Under the current eased coronavirus lockdown rules, outdoors gatherings are limited to 30 and demonstrations are required to be conducted in a COVID-secure way.
In a social media appeal ahead of the protest, the Met Police had asked anyone coming into London for a protest to make sure their gathering is lawful, with a risk assessment carried out by the organiser.
Images and videos from the scene showed officers left bleeding and some being tackled by angry crowds.
'These officers are just doing a job, they’re somebody’s son, daughter they’re mums and dads,' John Apter, the National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said on Twitter.
'To be targeted in the way they are says a lot about the society we’ve become. I will continue to do my best to support them but I need Government to do more, much more,” he said.
London mayoral candidates Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and actor Laurence Fox – running on an anti-lockdown platform against Mayor Sadiq Khan in the May election – were also part of the march.
The UK is currently mid-way through a lockdown easing roadmap set by the government, with the next phase of further easing of restrictions scheduled for May 17. PTI AK ZH ZH