Oxford Street protest: why have anti-lockdown campaigners gathered in London - and what are they demanding?

The protesters heckled shoppers on the popular shopping street for wearing masks.

Protesters march during a "Unite For Freedom" anti-lockdown demonstration held to protest against the use of vaccine passports in the United Kingdom, on April 24, 2021 in London.
Protesters march during a "Unite For Freedom" anti-lockdown demonstration held to protest against the use of vaccine passports in the United Kingdom, on April 24, 2021 in London.

Thousands have gathered on London’s Oxford Street today (April 24) to protest current lockdown restrictions.

At least 10,000 people attended the protest today, with local shoppers reportedly heckled by some of those on the demonstration.

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The demonstrators also marched through several parts of London.

What is the protest about?

The protest, which was initially said to be part of the “Kill the Bill” movement against the government’s new police and crime bill, appeared to have been taken over by anti-lockdown demonstrators.

The demonstration largely included people protesting against Covid regulations like the wearing of face masks and potential vaccine passports, with nearby shoppers reportedly heckled for wearing masks.

Mark White a Sky correspondent who was at the protest, told the broadcaster:

"The vast majority of people who are here are actually protesting against the rules around COVID, against vaccination, against the rules around masks.

"Lots of other concern as well about the potential for vaccine passports."

He added: "A lot of different groups that have come together with a lot of different areas they are concerned about, under a general heading they say of an attempt to preserve their freedoms - and rail against what they say is a continuing effort by the government and authorities to curtail those freedoms."

What are protesters asking for?

The demonstrators had no clear demands, with the general theme of the demonstration being protesters railing against what they see as a continued curtailing of their freedoms.

Some protesters carried signs claiming Covid to be a hoax.

There have been several other anti-lockdown protests since the pandemic began in 2020, with some organisers arrested by police.

What have police said?

The protest was planned, with the Metropolitan Police warning those thinking of attending not to go ahead of the weekend.

"The MPS strongly advises people not to attend any large gathering, for the protection of yourselves and others. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic," an open letter from the Met read.

"Please be advised that you may also be at risk of committing a criminal offence. Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 no person may participate in a gathering of more than 6 people outdoors, unless certain exemptions apply."

What are the rules on protesting during lockdown?

Currently, coronavirus rules stipulate that gathering in a group of more than six people outdoors is illegal.

There is an exception made, however, for protests and similar events.

The exception means you’re allowed to gather in a public place as long as the gathering:

has been organised by a business, a charity, a benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body

the organiser of the protest has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and

the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment.

This means that anyone attending a protest of more than six people where the organiser has not carried out a risk assessment could be at risk of arrest.