Several people have been arrested after hundreds gathered in Manchester city centre to protest against the second national coronavirus lockdown.
The protest, in Piccadilly Gardens, got underway at around 1pm on Sunday with Greater Manchester Police issuing a dispersal order.
Social media footage showed a few hundred people in attendance with little social distancing and few wearing masks.
Many of them carried placards, one of which read: ‘Fear is the currency of control.’
One speaker using a loud-hailer told the crowd: ‘Those 300-plus politicians that voted for the lockdown are treasonous.
‘From this day forward, it will be for every single one of us to be brave.’
Four have been arrested with 20 issued fines with police promising that the organiser will be slapped with a £10,000 fine.
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: ‘Utterly ridiculous behaviour from the organisers and the protesters, deliberately breaking the law and putting our communities at risk.’
Some of the protesters had also arrived from as far as Cumbria via a coach, police reported, adding that the driver and the coach operator will be ‘dealt with’.
The government has come under increasing pressure for introducing the national lockdown, with critics slamming its use of statistics to justify the new restrictions.
A slide used at Boris Johnson’s lockdown press conference last Saturday suggested there could be up to 4,000 daily deaths by next month without further action but that number and other projections were subsequently revised down.
Thousands of anti-maskers attend protest in Manchester during lockdown. The first weekend of the controversial new lockdown ended today
A man is detained by the police during a anti-lockdown demonstration which was organised under the banner ‘Rise Up Manchester’
Arrests made at Anti-mask attend protest in Manchester during lockdown today. Similar protests have broken out across the UK since the lockdown was announced
A woman is restrained and arrested by Greater Manchester Police during an anti-lockdown protest as they act on a dispersal order at Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester
Today’s positive drop in case numbers adds fuel to criticism against Boris Johnson’s trigger-happy lockdown put in place this week
Police officers clash with anti-lockdown protesters in Manchester this afternoon as the first weekend of the new lockdown comes to a close
The Prime Minister pushed ahead with nation-wide restrictions amid concerns rapid spread of the virus in September and October is leading to surging hospital admissions across the North of England
The Chief Constable confirmed that the event had put a strain on resources, with almost one in ten of the force’s staff off work amid the virus.
Around 50 officers were originally deployed and then a force response had to be instigated to disperse the crowd.
The protest appeared to be under the banner ‘Rise Up Manchester’.
At around 2pm, police chiefs confirmed they had authorised a ‘dispersal order’, though this appeared not to have been followed, with officers moving in at 4pm.
The crowd dispersed within 20 minutes though there was still a tense standoff between officers and protesters.
A statement from GMP earlier said: We are aware of a large gathering in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester city centre, and officers are in attendance.
‘Prior to this gathering, officers engaged with the organiser; explained the restrictions; and encouraged compliance and are continuing to do so.
‘Under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a Section 34 Dispersal Order has been authorised for Manchester City Centre until 6.45pm today (Sunday 8 November 2020).
‘This means members of the public must not gather in the area. Failure to comply is a criminal offence.
‘GMP would also like to use this opportunity to remind members of the public that, under the national Covid-19 restrictions, gatherings of more than two people are unlawful.
‘We encourage people to comply with these restrictions, as we have throughout this public health crisis, to help keep themselves and others safe.’
The Prime Minister pushed ahead with nation-wide restrictions amid concerns rapid spread of the virus in September and October is leading to surging hospital admissions across the North of England and sparking fears the NHS could be overwhelmed again.
Measures were brought in following grim predictions that deaths could rise to 1,000 a day by December, but weekly figures have seen a rise of just 14 compared to last Sunday
The government has come under increasing pressure for introducing the national lockdown, with critics slamming its use of statistics to justify the new restrictions
Greater Manchester Police make arrests as they act on a dispersal order at Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester as people attend anti-lockdown protest in Manchester
Arrests made at Anti-mask attend protest in Manchester during lockdown. Anger has been surging following introduction of the new measures
But the move has proven controversial as streams of data from various sources – some official and some not – seem to show that the local lockdown policy was working.
Meanwhile, nearly 500 academics told Boris Johnson in open letter attacking lockdown that official data is ‘exaggerating’ the risk of Covid-19 and talk of a second wave is ‘misleading’.
The doctors and scientists said the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has become ‘disproportionate’ and that mass testing has distorted the risk of the virus.
They said tests are likely to be producing high numbers of ‘false positive’ results and the Government must do more to put infection and death rates within the context of normal seasonal rates.
The letter criticised the Government’s handling of coronavirus for ‘causing more harm than good’.
Top scientists suggested the UK’s second wave of coronavirus has already peaked.
Professor Tim Spector, who leads the Covid Symptom Study app aiming to track the spread of Covid-19 in the UK, confirmed that there were ‘positive signs’ the country has ‘passed the peak of the second wave’.
The open letter to the Prime Minister was signed by 469 medics and is titled First Do No Harm – the medical principle that a cure must never be worse than the disease itself.
It is signed by immunologist Dr Charlotte R Bell, paediatrician Dr Rosamond Jones, consultant surgeon and Keith Willison, Professor of Chemical Biology at Imperial College.
The letter reads: ‘The management of the crisis has become disproportionate and is now causing more harm than good.
‘We urge policy-makers to remember that this pandemic, like all pandemics, will eventually pass but the social and psychological damage that it is causing risks becoming permanent.
‘After the initial justifiable response to Covid-19, the evidence base now shows a different picture.
Boris Johnson is facing a growing Tory revolt over the Government’s national coronavirus lockdown, as Britain announced 151 new Covid deaths in hospitals, a rise of just 14 compared to last week
A further 156 people have died after testing positive for the virus, official figures released today have revealed, bringing the UK’s total death toll during the pandemic to 49,044
The UK has today confirmed a further 20,572 positive Covid tests, a drop of 11.5 per cent on last Sunday’s total
‘The problem of functional false positive rates has still not been addressed and particularly in the context of low prevalence of disease whereby false positives are likely to exceed true positives substantially and moreover correlate poorly with the person being infectious.
Alongside this we have the issue that it is normal to see an increase in illness and deaths during the winter months.
‘It is notable that [the] UK death rate is currently sitting around average for this time of year. The use of the term ‘second wave’ is therefore misleading.
‘We have the knowledge to enable a policy that protects the elderly and vulnerable without increasing all other health and economic harms and which is not at the expense our whole way of life and particularly that of the nation’s children.’
The open letter was organised by the parent campaign UsForThem and Recovery, a new group opposing strong coronavirus restrictions.
It comes as the UK has today confirmed a further 20,572 positive Covid tests, a drop of 11.5 per cent on last Sunday’s total.
Today’s cases – which are 2,682 fewer than the 23,254 reported this time last week – comes on the first weekend of the country’s controversial second lockdown.
A further 156 people have died after testing positive for the virus, official figures released today have revealed, bringing the UK’s total death toll during the pandemic to 49,044.
Today’s all-settings death toll marks a drop of 3.7 per cent on the 162 deaths reported this time last week.
It is also fewer than half the 413 deaths reported yesterday – but figures on Sunday can be lower than usual due to a delay in processing over the weekend.
The positive drop in case numbers adds fuel to criticism against Boris Johnson’s trigger-happy lockdown put in place this week.