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AFP
September 27, 2020

Police clash with anti-lockdown protesters in London

World

AFP
September 27, 2020

LONDON: Police have clashed with anti-lockdown protesters at a demonstration in central London as officers tried to shut the event down.Thousands of people massed in Trafalgar Square on Saturday carrying a variety of signs, flags and placards to take part in a “we do not consent” rally, none appearing to wear face coverings or to social distance. But the Metropolitan Police said on Twitter that it was asking the crowds to disperse because they were not complying with social distancing rules.The force said demonstrators will be asked to leave and warned that anyone who stays could be subject to enforcement action.

Officers penned the crowd in Trafalgar Square and water was thrown at them by demonstrators while crowds also chanted “pick your side” at the officers. Bottles were thrown and police used batons against protesters, leaving some with visible injuries.

At least three protesters and one officer were treated by medical staff. The force said: “Crowds in Trafalgar Square have not complied with the conditions of their risk assessment and are putting people in danger of transmitting the virus.

“This has voided their risk assessment and we have informed the event organisers they are no longer exempt from the regulations.”

We are now asking those in Trafalgar Square to leave. Officers will be engaging with crowds and informing them of this development.

“By leaving now, you can keep yourself safe and avoid any enforcement action being taken by officers.”

Earlier, police searched a man and confiscated a makeshift riot shield he was carrying. The protest comes a week after a separate event which saw more than a dozen officers injured when a “small minority” targeted police and more than 32 arrests were made. The Met said it had been engaging with organisers throughout the week to remind them of their legal obligations and explaining the events could be in breach of coronavirus regulations.

While protests are exempt from the “rule of six” in England, organisers must submit a risk assessment and comply with social distancing. Police said some organisers had done so but where this had not happened the Met will “increase their engagement and encourage attendees to disperse”. They added that enforcement “remains a last resort but will be undertaken if required”. Coronavirus deaths could more than double to two million without collective action against the pandemic, the World Health Organisation has warned, as Australia’s prime minister urged any nation that develops a vaccine to share it with the world.

The number of cases worldwide has soared past 32 million, with deaths approaching one million, the global economy devastated, and major cultural and sports events disrupted.

“One million is a terrible number and we need to reflect on that before we start considering a second million,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters on Friday when asked how high the death toll could go.

“Are we prepared collectively to do what it takes to avoid that number?

“If we don’t take those actions... yes, we will be looking at that number and sadly much higher.”

The pandemic has spurred worldwide efforts to develop a vaccine to help defeat Covid-19, as well as efforts to try to ensure fair and widespread distribution.

“Whoever finds the vaccine must share it... This is a global responsibility and it’s a moral responsibility,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday in a message to the virtual UN General Assembly.

“Some might see short-term advantage or even profit, but I assure you... humanity will have a very long memory and be a very, very severe judge.”

Spain expanded a lockdown in and around the capital Madrid to cover one million people from Monday.

In Britain, authorities announced restrictions now extending to a quarter of the population, while two supermarket chains said they were rationing purchases of certain goods to clamp down on panic buying.

Moscow, meanwhile, ordered vulnerable residents of the Russian capital to avoid infection by staying at home, while Israel tightened its lockdown by stopping people from taking flights out of the country.

France reported record figures — daily cases soared past 16,000 for the first time on Thursday.

But moves by the authorities to contain the virus are not popular with many because of their painful economic toll.

Marseille bar and restaurant owners gathered outside the city’s commercial courthouse to demonstrate against forced closures starting Sunday evening. “Today, I get zero euros, zero euros,” said Sam, a nightclub manager. “I have (to pay) rent because I’m not lucky enough to be a landlord.”