Protesters at an anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown demonstration in central London have been ordered to disperse or face arrest.
The warning came after heated clashes between demonstrators and officers during a “Resist And Act For Freedom” rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon.
The Metropolitan Police said those attending the event are “putting themselves and others at risk” and some had been “hostile” and “violent” towards officers who had attempted to “explain, engage and encourage them to leave”.
A statement said: “This, coupled with pockets of hostility and outbreaks of violence towards officers, means we will now be taking enforcement action to disperse those who remain in the area. Those who remain may get arrested.
“It is important to remember that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, and the changes have been introduced to help control the spread of the virus, keep everybody safe and save lives.
“We encourage those in attendance to leave the area immediately.”
The number of cases per 100,000 people over seven days is reported to have increased in London from 18.8 to around 25.
Traffic around Trafalgar Square came to a halt during the demonstration, with one protester seen apparently spitting through the open window of a taxi whose driver had beeped the horn in frustration.
Rally organisers sold T-shirts bearing 5G conspiracy theories and advocating the legalisation of cannabis, with banners calling for Government scientific advisers to be sacked and declaring Covid-19 a “hoax”.
Addressing the crowd to huge cheers, organiser Kate Shemirani said: “We are the resistance.”
The protest was advertised with an image showing a vaccine bottle and urging people to “Come together, resist and act.”
One speaker at the rally, Professor Dolores Cahill of University College Dublin (UCD), expressed the view that the coronavirus vaccine will “make people sick”, going against mainstream scientific opinion.
The UCD has previously disassociated itself from views on Covid-19 aired by Prof Cahill, who also chairs the Eurosceptic Irish Freedom Party, the Irish Times reported.
Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious disease and have virtually eradicated smallpox, polio and tetanus in the UK, the NHS says.
But if people stop getting vaccinated then diseases can quickly spread again, it said, pointing to a spike in measles and mumps between 2016 and 2018.
There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, allergies or other conditions, weaken the immune system in any way, or contain harmful ingredients, it adds.
The World Health Organisation says immunisation prevents two to three million deaths per year.