Hundreds of anti-lockdown demonstrators and members of fringe conspiracy groups marched across London today to protest new coronavirus restrictions mere hours after they were implemented in the city.
Waving pro-Trump flags and holding signs related to the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory QAnon, protesters united by their scepticism of COVID-19 came together in a largely disordered yet angry protest, organised by anti-lockdown group StandUpX.
The protest began in Marble Arch and travelled to Speaker’s Corner, with hundreds of demonstrators chanting: “The media is the virus.” Accompanied by a heavy police presence, the protesters continued to Oxford Circus, stopping outside Facebook’s head office. Some members shouted at shoppers passing by, ordering them to “Take off your mask.”
The march then made its way to Leicester Square, where Piers Corbyn – brother of the former leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn – addressed the crowd.
“Bill Gates wants vaccinations to control you and to control women’s fertility to reduce world population,” Piers Corbyn said to the crowd. “That is his game and he’s going to get loads of money off it, and you will pay with your money and your life. We say, ‘No’.”
Violence erupted in Leicester Square when a man seated close to the protest was arrested, allegedly in possession of a knife, according to police. He was swiftly moved into a police van, but many demonstrators took this as an opportunity to engage aggressively with the police and throw cans of beer.
Crowds thinned as the march moved to Charing Cross police station, where there was another confrontation between anti-mask protesters and police. The march then travelled through Trafalgar Square and ended outside Downing Street, by which point many demonstrators had left.
The StandUpX march claimed to be in protest of new tier 2 restrictions that came into force in London at midnight last night, but members of other conspiracy movements were also in attendance. Some demonstrators held signs reading “Save our Children,” a phrase associated with the widely debunked QAnon theory concerning a secret paedophile ring run by politicians and celebrities. Others brandished St. George’s flags, MAGA hats and pro-Trump flags – signifiers often seen at far-right protests.
Anti-lockdown sentiment is gaining traction in the UK as coronavirus cases rise and new government restrictions come into place. Last month, police arrested 16 people in central London during clashes at an anti-lockdown demonstration.
Further anti-lockdown protests organised Save Our Rights UK are set to take place next weekend.