Yesterday hundreds protested through the streets of London in response to the recent take over of Afghanistan by the Taliban, following the American withdrawal. The protesters called for peace in Afghanistan and showed clear objection to Taliban rule. There were also chants to sanction Pakistan due to the countries alleged support for the Taliban.
On Saturday thousands of protesters marched through London chanting “Freedom”.
At the anti-lockdown protest in November, we saw a zero-tolerance approach from the police and over 150 arrests. This weekend the police took a considerable step back and, after early attempts at preventing the protestors from gathering had failed, allowed the march to continue through the city centre. Breaches to Covid regulation led to over 30 arrests.
Protesters were told to head to central London and mill around until 11:00, when the location would be announced to meet, using the popular messaging app Telegram. This meant the police could not lock down a specific area and prevent protesters from meeting up. As the location was announced, Hyde Park Corner, thousands of people flocked to the park and mixed with the general population. The police attempted to block all exits to the park, but it was difficult to differentiate between protesters and members of the public.
At 12:00, coloured smoke flares were set off, and thousands of protesters emerged from the general public and created a force more significant than the police expected. The police didn’t have the numbers to contain the protest in the park, and the rally moved onto the streets, stopping traffic and unrestricted by the police who followed the protest but did very little to interfere.
Once it was clear that the protest wouldn’t be stopped, the City Police moved ahead of the march to stop traffic. On asking a police officer when they would stop the rally, he replied, “when the protesters want to stop, I am here to make sure they are safe”. And this is the vibe many of the officers gave off on the day.
The protest, now numbering thousands, marched East from Hyde Park, down Oxford Street, carrying on until Cornhill, before turning back towards Parliament. It remained peaceful, and by the time the protest arrived at Trafalgar Square at around 16:00, they had marched over 15km.
The police in London resisted using force and allowed the protest to proceed peacefully. As the government looks to push through a bill restricting peaceful demonstrations, it is essential to acknowledge that there will only be a rise in violent protests and riots.
On Saturday the 28th of November, hundreds of protesters headed into central London in an attempt to show their anger and displeasure at the current lockdown regulations.
From the offset, the police use a tactic of isolate and disrupt. The location to which the protesters were supposed to meet continuously changed throughout the day; owing to the rapid response and arrests of the police. Due to the new lockdown laws police were able to arrest anyone who had a banner or showed any sign of protesting and they used this newfound power to significant effect. Anyone who so much as started a chant or raised a sign was arrested.
When I asked one of the liaison officers what was happening at Kings Cross, one of the supposed meeting points for protesters. He replied; 'a load of idiots who don't believe in Covid want to meet here, and we are going to arrest them'. Arrest them they did, there were more than 150 arrests on Saturday, and I ended up walking over 15km trying to keep up with the ever-moving police.
One of the difficulties that the protesters had was the lack of cohesion. I asked many protesters why they were in London, and I got such a broad array of answers. Some were anti-lockdown, some were anti-mask, some were anti-vaccine, and some didn't believe in Covid at all. The protesters didn't have one voice and, except for a gathering in Hyde park toward the end of the day, the protesters were spread all around different parts of London attempting to link up.
Saturday was a great example of what the police can achieve with more powers; however, the debate is whether they should have these powers at all. I am not a protestor, and I can't entirely agree with the protesters in many ways; however, the power the police had to arrest anyone they wanted was frightening. As lockdown ends in a few days, maybe we can reflect and give out a sigh of relief that the police in the UK will not have these unprecedented powers for much longer.
Footage from the day: