Current government legislation makes gatherings in groups of more than two people unlawful, unless exemptions apply. Gathering for the purpose of a protest is not an exception under the Covid-19 regulations. The right to protest must be balanced against the rights of others and the protection of public health.
In the interests of public health, the Met is telling people not to attend central London in order to gather to protest. By gathering in large numbers, there is a risk of spreading the virus that has claimed so many lives.
A significant policing operation will be in place throughout the day to engage with people who are in breach of the regulations. Those gathering will be encouraged to return home, if they do not, they face necessary and proportionate enforcement action. This could be a fixed penalty notice, or arrest.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, said: “The Met is committed to working with groups who wish to assemble to protest or for other purposes. But these are not normal times. Within the last few weeks, London has seen high infection rates with many people in hospital because of coronavirus. Given the very real threat to public health, it is vital we all take action to avoid situations where the virus can easily spread.
“People who gather as part of the protest risk the health of Londoners. That is why we have a policing plan in place to disperse crowds and where necessary, take proportionate enforcement action.
“This will not just be organisers of the protests but participants too – by now everyone knows their part to play in stopping the spread of the virus and thousands have sacrificed much over the last 12 months to do so.
“We do not want to be in a position where enforcement is necessary – we would rather our officers be in London’s communities, tackling local issues. That is why I would urge people to reconsider joining a protest and stay at home.”