Priti Patel has blasted ‘thugs’ who fought with police during the ‘senseless violence’ at an anti-lockdown protest on Saturday.
The Home Secretary promised to get tough on a ‘criminal minority’ after eight officers were injured. Two were taken to hospital but do not have serious injuruies.
Her intervention comes as a police leader said he would be raised with senior management in the Metropolitan Police with ‘utmost urgency’.
Demonstrators hurled bottles and punches as officers attempted to disperse crowds in Hyde Park last night, following a march and rally that featured banners with messages including: ‘You don’t need proof to know truth.’
Photographs posted on social media showed a female police officer bleeding from a cut to her head while another suffered a similar wound on his forehead.
A scientific expert warned that the protesters could be spreading the virus while the Met said five people were arrested for offences including assault on police and public order offences.
Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation – which represents thousands of rank-and-file officers – said: ‘We can assure everyone that we shall be raising the scenes we witnessed in Hyde Park yesterday with senior management in the Metropolitan Police with utmost urgency.
‘The safety of our police officers should be top of the agenda. We wish all our injured colleagues a swift recovery and will be supporting them as best as we can.’
The protest, which also took place in Oxford Street, came almost two weeks after coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England were relaxed as part of the Government’s roadmap.
Ms Patel tweeted on Sunday: ‘Our brave police are the best of us and should not be the target of senseless violence by a criminal minority for just doing their job.
‘I am getting tough on these thugs and will be doubling the sentence for assault of an emergency worker.
‘I wish the officers a speedy recovery.’
Mr Marsh added: ‘Peaceful protest may well be the cornerstone of democracy – and police officers have a role in facilitating that – but the scenes we saw in Hyde Park yesterday of a thin blue line of brave and sadly bloodied police officers coming under attack from thugs were anything but peaceful.
‘Police officers are human beings who go out every day to keep people safe.
‘Many people seem to have forgotten that right now but we will keep reminding them.
‘Our colleagues have every right to go home to their families at the end of their shifts. Not to hospital.’
Mr Marsh noted that the country is still in the middle of a pandemic, adding ‘our unvaccinated police officers deserve greater protection’.
Our brave police are the best of us and should not be the target of senseless violence by a criminal minority for just doing their job.
I am getting tough on these thugs and will be doubling the sentence for assault of an emergency worker.
I wish the officers a speedy recovery. https://t.co/oSkZkI7fl1
Meanwhile, a scientific expert said anti-lockdown protesters who touch, shout and shun masks are ‘at the very least a potential risk’ for spreading Covid-19, adding there is some evidence of mass events having an impact.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the influential Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), said counties in the US which held Trump rallies saw bigger spikes in infection than those who did not.
He said: ‘Moreover, the mass election rallies in India and the permission to bring huge religious festivals forward from 2022 to 2021 (the Kumbh Mela at Haridwar) is one explanation for the huge rise of cases in India.
‘Much depends on how people behave in these events. If they maintain distance and wear masks, there is little danger.
‘If they explicitly ignore restrictions, if they reject masks, stand close together, touch, shout and sing, then – going back to first principles – there is likely to be a risk.
‘Given that the anti-lockdown protests do all of these things, they are at the very least a potential risk.’
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