Met police brace for ‘busy weekend’ of major London protests

Some of the UK’s leading dance music acts are expected to join a protest march in London calling for the government to scrap Covid restrictions on nightclubs, as the capital gears up for a weekend of mass demonstrations.

Anti-lockdown protesters, anti-austerity campaigners and environmentalists will also stage protests in London on Saturday and Sunday, and the Metropolitan police said they were preparing for “a busy weekend”.

The force said on Friday that it had been taking “proactive action”. Officers had raided three locations, seizing items including bamboo structures, lock-on equipment and other items “which could be used to cause criminal damage and obstructions” and making 12 arrests.

At least four of those arrested were affiliated with the environmental protest movement Extinction Rebellion, the group confirmed. It said the women had been “creating art” for a Free the Press march targeting media organisations on Sunday. An XR spokesperson said the protest would go ahead.

DJs will perform to crowds from two huge sound systems mounted on lorries on Sunday at the Freedom to Dance protest. Performers will include some of the leading lights from the UK’s house, techno, garage and drum’n’bass music scenes, including Hannah Wants, Eats Everything, Heartless Crew, and Fabio and Grooverider.

The economic impact of coronavirus restrictions has devastated the £1.2bn-a-year nightclub industry. Most venues have been unable to operate since 23 March last year. Between 30% and 40% of nightclub businesses have gone under, according to Michael Kill, the chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which is supporting the protest.

Industry figures are worried that the effect on nightclubs could be catastrophic if some restrictions remain in place after the planned end date to coronavirus restrictions on 19 July. A report prepared for ministers and seen by Politico this week suggested that if face masks continue to be mandatory indoors, revenues for nightclub-type venues could plummet to 65% of their 2019 level.

One of the organisers of Sunday’s protest, Kai Cant, said: “Some might ask, why protest now, [when reopening] is only four weeks away? To which I answer, if we stay silent, this will present a greater potential for the government to delay again and again. We have run many polls over the past two days, which shows on average 90% of the population don’t believe they will lift all restrictions on 19 July.”

The protest had been scheduled for Saturday in conjunction with another major anti-lockdown protest, which begins at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park at 1pm.The Guardian understands, however, that the organisers of Freedom to Dance were unable to get the approval needed to ensure their PA equipment would not have been confiscated if they joined Saturday’s protest.

Conversations on the social messaging app Telegram suggest some people intend to bring sound systems to Saturday’s march anyway.

Also on Saturday, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity plans a national demonstration that a number of protest groups are expected to join under the slogan “United against this corrupt government”. That protest will assemble outside the BBC on Portland Place from midday, before marching to Parliament Square.

The Met said people living or travelling in Westminster and areas of Lambeth and Southwark on Saturday and Sunday should expect disruption and that “road closures will be in place to keep Londoners safe”. It said there would be “zero tolerance for disorder or criminality”.

Ch Insp Joe Stokoe from the Met’s public order command said: “We will not tolerate disruptive or unruly behaviour, or any action by groups to intimidate or threaten members of the public, media or police officers.”

 

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