At least 22 policemen were injured in South London on Wednesday night as they tried to disperse the crowds that had gathered for an illegal outdoor party in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, police said.
Gatherings of more than six people from separate homes are banned in Britain, but hundreds of partygoers had gathered for the party in the Brixton neighborhood, as the city experienced the hottest day so far this year .
The party was one of dozens of illegal gatherings in a country that is still dealing with the pandemic. Despite the fact that the number of new cases and deaths has decreased significantly, scientists have warned that reducing restrictions and reducing the social distance required between people could trigger a wave of infections.
Britain has reported more than 43,000 coronavirus deaths and 306,000 cases since the pandemic began, and this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country’s pubs, restaurants, hotels and museums would reopen on July 4.
The Metropolitan Police, London’s main force, said in a statement that officers had received several complaints about the outdoor party in Brixton on Wednesday night and attempted to encourage the crowd to go home, but “the event continued. and more officers attended the scene and the group became hostile towards the officers. “
Images shared on social media showed that the scene turned into chaos when officers and partygoers clashed. The clips show a small group smashing the windows of a police vehicle and at least one man threatened a dozen policemen with what appeared to be a long wooden stick, yelling “back off.”
Several people chased the retiring police officers in a van, while other partygoers could be seen running in a panic from the scene.
In total, 22 officers were injured, according to police, none of them seriously, although two received hospital treatment. Four people were arrested overnight and remained in custody on Thursday.
Colin Wingrove, commander of the Metropolitan Police, said such meetings pose a great risk to public health. “The violence shown towards the officers is totally unacceptable and we will not tolerate it in any way,” he added.
Britain has been under closure since the end of March, and despite the gradual easing of restrictions in recent weeks, police have struggled to disrupt dozens of largely planned illegal gatherings, parties and raves on social media.
Some have become tragic: In a “quarantine attack” that brought together more than 4,000 people in a park in Oldham, near Manchester, earlier this month, a 20-year-old boy died of an alleged drug overdose, and Police are investigating reports that an 18-year-old woman was raped and three men were stabbed at another party.
Dozens of other unlicensed parties have been organized across the country, and Tony Blockley, chief of police at Derby University, said police had struggled to tackle the problem and were increasingly facing the risk of being white when it arrived. after an event had started. .
“It is very difficult for the police to anticipate such delusions,” Blockley said in a phone interview. “But if, in addition to that, public opinion on the blockade has changed to ‘We don’t need to do it anymore,’ it makes their mission of protecting the public and maintaining peace almost impossible.”
In a tweet on Thursday, Priti Patel, the British cabinet minister responsible for police, described the footage from the Brixton episode as “utterly vile scenes.” Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said “violence against the police will not be tolerated.”
It is unclear whether the shutdown has led to an increase in illegal parties in London or across the country. The Metropolitan Police did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment.
Wednesday’s incident followed several clashes between police and protesters in London in recent weeks.
There were a handful of clashes related to widespread and largely peaceful anti-racism protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases of police violence. And in a far-right counter-protest earlier this month, protesters fired projectiles and hit officers guarding statues in central London.