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Police have been out in force arresting anti-lockdown protesters, Covid rule-breakers and Julian Assange supporters today as they promise to take a hard-line on people flouting the restrictions.
There were angry scenes at Parliament Square in London as Met Police officers arrested 21 anti-lockdown protesters today at the start of England's third nationwide lockdown.
One woman was seen crying out in anger as multiple officers restrained her on the ground by the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Square.
While pictures and video footage showed police chasing protesters as they attempted to flee.
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Scenes at Parliament Square today
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Meanwhile, seven people were "detained and later handed a fixed penalty notice" at a protest by Julian Assange supporters, around two miles away outside Westminster Magistrates' Court.
It comes as MPs have been told England's third nationwide lockdown could legally last until March 31.
In a statement on Twitter, the force said: "We have made 21 arrests after a protest in Parliament Square today.
"Separately, seven people were detained and later handed a fixed penalty notice following a small gathering outside Westminster Magistrates' Court.
"They were then instructed to go home."
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As the third nationwide lockdown takes hold, this morning the Met said it has instructed officers to enforce lockdown laws more 'quickly' and they will accept fewer 'reasonable excuses' in an effort to save lives.
They warned people who leave their homes will be forced to explain themselves and lockdown breachers will no longer be "reasoned with".
The number of £200 fines in London is set to soar after the Met announced officers will be more "inquisitive" – carrying out stops to find out why people are out and about.
The force, the largest in England, this morning announced that people committing "obvious, wilful and serious breaches" will no longer be given the benefit of the doubt.
MailOnline reports a 92-year-old man was among those arrested outside Westminster Magistrates' Court, around two miles from Parliament Square, where Julian Assange was denied bail this morning.
Police were seen leading people away
(Image: Akira Suemori/REX/Shutterstock)
Protesters shouted "fascists" at police as they objected to treatment of their WikiLeaks hero who is fighting extradition to the US.
It comes as the government faces calls to allow police to enter people's homes to break up gatherings following an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.
The Met said officers will accept fewer "reasonable excuses" for people being away from their homes, and those not wearing masks when they should be are more likely to be slapped with a fine.
Meanwhile West Midlands' police and crime commissioner David Jamieson has demanded police be allowed to force entry to homes if they suspect lockdown rule breaches.
The police arrive in force at parliament square
(Image: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock)
He was quoted as saying the measures should be used against anyone who refused to let officers into their homes.
He was reported to have said the power of entry would be a "useful tool" – but faced a backlash led by controversial actor Laurence Fox.
West Midlands Police is expected to reveal more details of a tough new crackdown on Covid flouters during the latest lockdown.
Mr Jamieson was quoted by The Guardian as saying: "For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.
Officers are cracking down on rule-flouters
(Image: Johnny Armstead/REX/Shutterstock)
“I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily."
Police in London have already warned flouters to expect more fines and also that officers will be doing spot checks and asking people where they are going.
But Mr Jamieson's comments sparked a furious response from actor-turned-political campaigner Fox.
He posted: "Don’t be David Jamieson. Be the exact opposite of David Jamieson. David Jamieson does not have your best interests close to his heart. David Jamieson has a desire for power close to his heart."
Met Police told officers to issue fines more quickly
(Image: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock)
The Metropolitan Police said officers had been told to issues fines more quickly to anyone found flouting restrictions and not wearing a face mask.
A spokesman said: "Additionally, with fewer 'reasonable excuses' for people to be away from their home in the regulations, Londoners can expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about.
"Where officers identify people without a lawful reason to be away from home they can expect officers to move more quickly to enforcement."
It was not yet known whether West Midlands Police would follow suit.
Protesters shouted slogans
(Image: Getty Images)
Met Police said it has instructed officers to issue £200 fines "more quickly" – having previously focused on "explaining, and encouraging".
Rulebreakers can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
Random stops will be carried out to find if people have legitimate reasons for leaving their homes.
It comes two days after Boris Johnson plunged England back into a national lockdown following a huge surge in Covid-19 cases which threatens to overwhelm the NHS and cost thousands of lives.
Police tried to move the protesters on
(Image: Humphrey Nemar.)
The new measures became legally enforceable today after being backed by MPs.
Meanwhile in Maidenhead, Thames Valley Police apologised for what they described as an officer who was "a bit keen" and has been handing out leafleats to drivers, stopping and challenging them, Bracknell News reported.
Leaflets were handed to shoppers driving between towns to a supermarket, while Bracknell residents say they were handed a leaflet by police, which asked why they were driving to a park for exercise.
Thames Valley Police said in a statement: "We are aware of the leaflets handed out and that drivers have been stopped and challenged.
Protests took place in the heart of London
(Image: ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
This was not Windsor and Maidenhead Officers but was TVP officers and therefore TVP apologise for any upset caused.
"This was an individual officer who was just a bit keen, this has been addressed and should not happen again.
"However, if it does please let TVP know as soon as possible.
"TVP will continue with our consistent approach of Engaging, Explaining, Encouraging and will Enforce where this is a blatant breach of legislation.
Police are taking a tough approach
(Image: Getty Images)
"We recognise the importance of working with our communities in all areas of policing, we particularly value your continued support during this latest (and hopefully final) lockdown."
Londoners will be fined for not wearing masks in indoor public spaces unless they have an exemption on health grounds, the Met confirmed this morning.
In a statement, police said: "In practice this will mean that all those attending parties, unlicensed music events or large illegal gatherings, can expect to be fined – not just the organisers of such events.
"Similarly, those not wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with."
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It continued: "Additionally, with fewer “reasonable excuses” for people to be away from their home in the regulations, Londoners can expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about."
Reasons people are allowed to leave their home
- Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating.
- Education and childcare
- Meeting others and care – You can leave home to visit people in your support bubble, to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble, to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people, to provide emergency assistance, to attend a support group (of up to 15 people), or for respite care
- Exercise – You can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble
- Medical reasons
- Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home, hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
- Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.
- Communal worship and life events
Earlier, the Met Police issues a statement saying they were aware of the planned protest in Parliament Square today, saying that "gathering for the purpose of a protest is not an exemption" to the Covid restrictions.
They added: "Those looking to gather today are urged to stay at home; if you do not you face enforcement action by officers."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, said: “For those planning on demonstrating, you are reminded of your obligation to adhere to the government guidelines and stay at home.
“If people are found to be in breach of regulations, put in place to keep the public safe, then they can expect to see enforcement from officers.
“This will not just be organisers of the gatherings but participants too – by now everyone knows their part to play in stopping the spread of the virus.
“People that gather as part of this protest today risk the health of Londoners. I will not tolerate this and that is why we have a policing plan in place to disperse crowds and if necessary, take enforcement action.”
Tonight MPs are set to back England’s third lockdown in a shutdown that could legally last until March 31.
Boris Johnson has vowed to review restrictions in mid-February and hopes to return to a tier system after seven weeks, from February 22.
But the small print of the law – which already came into effect at midnight and is being approved retrospectively – shows it could last longer.
While Health Secretary Matt Hancock must review the rules at least every two weeks, he’ll have the power to keep them until March 31.
A government official told the FT: “Let’s be honest, it’s probably going to run till Easter.”
And the Prime Minister told Tory MPs things would be better by the end of “tulip season” or even “daffodil season” in a call last night.
According to the Spectator, this led to MPs frantically looking up the seasons for each type of flower on Google to understand what he meant.