Scotland Yard urges Londoners not to attend parties on last weekend before Christmas

Published: 19 December 2020, 9:12 AM

Post desk : Scotland Yard has issued an open letter urging people not to attend large gatherings over the last weekend before Christmas, amid fears of further anti-lockdown protests in the capital.

The force said extra officers will be on London’s streets to encourage compliance with strict Tier 3 Covid-19 regulations and to “swiftly clamp down on those wilfully and dangerously ignoring them”.

An anti-lockdown demonstration is expected in Parliament Square on Saturday, with others planned around the country.

An open letter published on the Metropolitan Police’s website asks people not to attend any large gathering and warns they may be at risk of committing a criminal offence if they do.

Coronavirus laws outlaw gatherings of more than six outdoors, although there is a list of exemptions which includes protests where all relevant safety precautions are in place.

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in England and Wales, earlier this week wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel highlighting the health risks to those policing protests.

National chairman John Apter and Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh described the Christmas footfall coupled with a mass demonstration as a potentially “deadly and unmanageable mix”.

The Met said the force will focus on disrupting large gatherings adding that protest organisers must stick to Government regulations as well as their submitted risk assessment.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “Where we become aware of planned events that will breach regulations, we will try to engage with organisers or venues to make them fully aware of the restrictions that are in place to keep people safe.

“However, if people do not listen to our advice and fail to comply with the rules, we will be forced to take enforcement action.

“With infection rates rising rapidly across the capital, we all need to play our part in preventing the spread of the virus.

“This is the final weekend before Christmas, so now is not the time for complacency. I know Londoners know what they should and should not be doing and I would urge everyone to act sensibly and do their part to keep our city safe.

“Sticking to the guidelines put in place to keep us all safe and well is now more important than ever.

“This weekend we will ensure we deal with the activity of a few so as not to expose our communities at even greater risk during this pandemic.”
Some 11 people were arrested after a demonstration by about 200 protesters in London’s Parliament Square on Monday for alleged offences including breach of Covid-19 regulations, Public Order Act offences and assaulting an emergency worker.

During the second national lockdown at the end of November more than 150 people were arrested as activists marched from Hyde Park to Oxford Circus and Regent Street, clashing with police.