Police officers call for ban on protests during Covid-19 threat

Police are confronted by protesters in Whitehall near Parliament Square, London, during a protest by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance Credit: PA

The organisation that represents rank-and-file police officers in England and Wales has called on the Home Secretary to ban all protests while the threat of Covid-19 remains.

Police Federation chairman John Apter said Priti Patel must be “unequivocal” in stating that large gatherings are not allowed.

It comes after a second weekend of violent clashes in the capital as far-right protesters took over areas near the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square on Saturday in response to anti-racism demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Police are confronted by protesters in Whitehall near Parliament Square, London, during a protest by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance Credit: PA

In normal times the principle of having the right to peaceful protests is an important one. However, we are not in normal times, we are tackling a deadly virus which is indiscriminate in who it can affect. Police officers have provided outstanding professionalism in their dealings with large gatherings during Covid-19 – some of which turned violent at the weekend. But we can’t ignore the avoidable risk our members and to those attending the protests are being exposed to. I urge the Home Secretary to be unequivocal in her terms that whilst we are under the threat of this virus, any large gathering or protest must be banned. We cannot allow our police officers and members of the public to be put at risk of contracting the virus, especially at such a critical time in our response to the pandemic.

John Apter, Police Federation

Protesters could already face sanctions under coronavirus laws, which currently ban groups of more than six people, with exceptions, from gathering.> A total of 23 officers were injured in London as police were pelted with missiles, smoke grenades, glass bottles and flares on Saturday.> The protest was condemned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “racist thuggery” and described as “mindless hooliganism” by police.> Some 113 people were arrested, including 28-year-old Andrew Banks, from Stansted, Essex, who is who is due to appear in court on Monday charged with outraging public decency.