Handful of 'Kill the Bill' activists march on London and Manchester

Handful of ‘Kill the Bill’ activists march on London and Manchester as police keep watchful eye – after protesters threatened Easter weekend of chaos

  • Demonstrators gathered at Finsbury Park today with other rallies staged in Southampton and Manchester
  • Rallies are being held to show opposition to proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021
  • Protesting is now legal in England, but organisers must submit risk assessments and ensure social distancing
  • It comes amid calls for protesters in all cities to gather tomorrow to oppose the controversial legislation

A handful of ‘Kill the Bill’ activists have marched on London and Manchester with police keeping a watchful eye after demonstrators scheduled protests in a ‘National Weekend of Action’ over what could be a chaotic Easter.

Large numbers of people waved placards as they gathered at Guildhall Square in Southampton and also convened at Finsbury Park in the capital city and St Peter’s Square in Manchester city centre from 1pm.

Demonstrators waved placards as they gathered at Finsbury Park in the capital city today while other rallies were also staged at Guildhall Square in Southampton and St Peter’s Square in Manchester city centre from 1pm.

The protests are being held to show opposition to the Government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, which would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance.  

Protesting is now legal in England following a change in Covid-19 lockdown rules which came into force on Monday, but organisers are required to submit risk assessments and ensure social distancing.

Despite this, the Metropolitan Police warned yesterday the safety of the wider community is paramount and said enforcement action would be taken ‘if needed, in the interests of public health’. 

It comes amid calls for protesters in all cities to gather tomorrow to oppose the controversial anti-protest legislation being shared widely online. 

Protests are expected to take place in London, Plymouth and Bournemouth on what is forecast to be a sunny weekend and the first to benefit from the easing of ‘stay at home’ lockdown restrictions.

Demonstrators gold up placards reading ‘Boris reigns freedom wanes’, ‘we need more power’ and ‘this is how change happens’ during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Finsbury Park, North London, today

Demonstrators during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, today. It comes amid calls for protesters in all cities to gather tomorrow to oppose the anti-protest legislation

Demonstrators holding banners during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest at Finsbury Park today. The bill would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance

A police officer talks to a man before the start of a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Finsbury Park, North London, today

In Southampton, protesters set up a makeshift PA system and chanted ‘kill the bill’ while others banged drums.

A crowd of around 200 gathered outside the gates of Finsbury Park, in north London mostly wearing masks, holding banners with phrases defending the right to protest. 

The group stayed for around an hour and a half before dispersing peacefully.

In Manchester, demonstrators remained socially distanced in St Peter’s Square with a 48-hour police dispersal order remaining in place for the entire city centre.

The order gives the city’s police force  the power to tell people engaged or likely to engage in anti-social behaviour to leave a specified area.

It is in place until 3pm on Saturday and comes after a number of unrelated gatherings were held this week, including at Castlefield Bowl.

Greater Manchester Police said earlier today: ‘GMP are aware of plans to demonstrate in the city centre today and have been closely monitoring the situation.

‘We have worked closely with partners to ensure appropriate plans have been put in place.’ 

A demonstrator is seen wearing a face mask with ‘Kill the Bill’ written across the front during a protest in Finsbury Park today

Protestors hold banners during a ‘Kill the Bill’ rally in Finsbury Park on Good Friday. The demonstration is against the new policing law, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

A demonstrator holds a banner reading ‘protest is not a crime’ during the rally in Finsbury Park, North London, earlier today

A woman takes a photo of her son holding a protest sign over his face at a Kill the Bill protest in Finsbury Park, London, today

A demonstrators holds a sign reading ‘if protest changed anything, they’d make it illegal’, during a Kill the Bill rally in London

A woman wearing a face mask holds up a cardboard placard during today’s protest in Finsbury Park, North London

Protestors chant their opposition to the proposed new bill as activists gather for a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest at Finsbury Park

Protestors chant their opposition to the proposed new bill as activists gather for a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest at Finsbury Park today

A speaker addresses the crowd as protestors gather for a ‘Kill the Bill’ rally in Finsbury Park, North London, this afternoon

Protestors chant their opposition to the proposed new bill as activists gather for a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest at Finsbury Park 

A police officer speaks to a person they perceive to be an organiser of the protest during the rally in Finsbury Park, London

A similar rally was held in St Peter’s Square last Saturday, with some demonstrators who sat on the tram tracks being forcibly removed by officers and 18 people arrested. 

It follows police officers appealing for help earlier this week to identify 14 protesters they believe were involved in the first Kill the Bill riot in Bristol on March 21. A further demonstration on March 30 passed off peacefully.

Violent scenes had erupted last Sunday when around 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets to protest the bill. 

Can protests take place in England under Covid rules?

Britons are permitted to gather in groups larger than six for the purpose of ‘Covid-secure protests’ under updated lockdown rules.

The guidance had previously outlawed any large gatherings, meaning the previous three Bristol rallies weren’t permitted under Covid restrictions.

However, an update which came into force on Monday allows people to gather in larger groups for protest if the organiser has ‘taken the required precautions.’

This includes completing a risk assessment for the gathering. 

The updated guidance reads: ‘You may gather in larger groups… for the purpose of Covid-secure protests or picketing where the organiser has taken the required precautions, including the completion of a risk assessment.’ 

Senior Investigating Officer DCI James Riccio said: ‘Our investigation is continuing at pace and we continue to make significant progress in what is a really challenging inquiry.

‘We’ve had fantastic support from the public so far and for that we’re incredibly grateful.

‘I’d like to once again ask for their help to look at our gallery and see if they recognise any of the people in the images.’

There have been 25 arrests in connection with the unrest, including nine men aged between 19 and 44 who were arrested on suspicion of violent disorder on the night.

Four women, aged between 18 and 20, were then arrested between Thursday and Friday last week, also on suspicion of violent disorder.

Later, police arrested another three people, two men and a woman aged between 21 and 30, on suspicion of violent disorder during a third protest on March 26.

The rally, which followed a second night of violence on March 23, saw some 300 people join a march through Bristol against the controversial bill before the crowd swelled to more than 1,000.

And last Saturday, officers detained three men and two women – aged between 19 and 30 – on suspicion of violent disorder.

On the same day, Boris Johnson condemned a ‘mob intent on violence’. The Prime Minister slammed the ‘disgraceful’ demonstration and hit out at those ‘intent on violence and causing damage to property’.

He was backed by Priti Patel who blasted the ‘thugs’ who were ‘only intent on causing trouble’ at the Kill the Bill march in Bristol last Friday night.

The Home Secretary said she was ‘disgusted’ by the attacks on police, which saw protesters launch fireworks at officers on horseback outside Bridewell Police Station.

She said the force ‘have my full support’ and added she believed the ‘silent, law-abiding majority will be appalled by the actions of this criminal minority’.

Demonstrators hold up placards during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest  against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Guildhall Square, Southampton, today

Demonstrators gather while holding up placards reading ‘Kill the Bill’ at a protest in Guildhall Square, Southampton, today

Protestors wearing face masks pictured during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Southampton on Good Friday. Britons are permitted to gather in groups larger than six for the purpose of ‘Covid-secure protests’ under updated lockdown rules

A demonstrator holds up a placard reading ‘free the land’ during a protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Guildhall Square, Southampton, today

Protestors gather during a socially-distanced rally against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, on Good Friday

Covid marshals pictured in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, as demonstrators take part in a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest today

A demonstrator wearing a face mask holds up two placards during a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, on Good Friday

Detective Chief Superintendent Carolyn Belafonte previously said the investigation into scenes on March 21 will ‘undoubtedly be one of the largest in Avon and Somerset Police’s history.’

She said: ‘More than 100 officers and staff continue to work on the inquiry which is being led by our Major Crime Investigation Team.

‘Hundreds of hours of digital material has already been reviewed and images of the first 10 people detectives want to talk to about Sunday’s events have been identified and published on a gallery on our website.

‘Officers and staff are working their way through images and footage as quickly as they can but with more than two terabytes worth of CCTV footage as well as nearly 100 officers’ body worn video cameras and more than 100 videos already sent in by members of the public to review, this will take a considerable amount of time.

‘We expect to release images of many more people in the coming days and ask anyone who recognises anyone to contact us. 

‘We’d also ask anyone who recognises themselves in the images to pick up the phone and dial 101 or visit their nearest police station so we can arrange for officers to talk to you to get your account of events.’

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