Fifteen people have been arrested in Liverpool following an anti-lockdown protest in the city which saw people gather in the centre at 1pm on Saturday.
Those under arrest are being held for breaking coronavirus restrictions which place a ban on public gatherings and mass protest during the country’s second national lockdown.
Some are also being held on suspicion of committing public order offences, Merseyside Police said.
Many more demonstrators were dispersed while some officers were “subjected to mindless abuse” from those gathered, according to Chief Superintendent Ngaire Waine.
Hundreds were in attendance with some observed chanting “freedom” before clashing with officers. One sign read “The pandemic is over” while another simply said “Lies, lies, lies.”
"The vast majority of people in Merseyside have made huge sacrifices since March, missing weddings, funerals and family celebrations in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus,” commented the chief superintendent.
"We have seen infection rates driven down in Merseyside thanks to the commitment of so many people, and already more than 140,000 have taken part in a mass testing pilot here in Merseyside to help the national effort to protect life and get back to normality. They are a credit to this county.”
Saying that it is “incredibly frustrating” for people following the rules to observe a “minority of selfish individuals” flouting them, Chf Supt Waine added that the laws are in place “to protect the lives of people”.
“Their actions have posed a significant risk to public health and we will continue to study CCTV and bodycam to identify offenders and bring them to justice,” she said.
Last weekend, 16 were arrested in Liverpool after hundreds attended an anti-lockdown demonstration.
Elsewhere, two people were arrested during an anti-lockdown demonstration in Bournemouth, Dorset, while another three were taken into custody during a march in Ipswich.
There have regularly been anti-lockdown protests in cities across the UK over the last couple of weeks, with 14 arrested by police during a march in Bristol last week. More than 100 were taken into custody in London during an anti-lockdown protest on 6 November, the first night of the country’s second lockdown.
Meanwhile, Liverpool is hosting the first citywide testing regime in the UK in a pilot for the government’s “Operation Moonshot” – a plan for the provision of weekly testing for everyone in the country.
On Friday, two weeks since the trial began, nearly 153,000 tests had been carried out across the city in testing sites at churches, hotels and gyms. Rapid testing – using lateral-flow kits that can show results within the hour –have detected large numbers of people in Liverpool who are Covid-positive and asymptomatic.
The rate of infection in the city has fallen from nearly 700 cases per 100,000 on 8 October to 260 on 15 November, with Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s director of public health, saying he was “really pleased” with the “very strong” progress so far.
Due to end in two weeks’ time, the government plan to roll out similar schemes in 67 other towns and cities in England.
The same day as the anti-lockdown protest in the city, Liverpool’s council confirmed that the mass testing will continue after the pilot, though details are still yet to be mapped out.