Eighteen people have been arrested after ‘Kill the Bill’ protesters blocked tram lines in Manchester.
Footage shows some demonstrators being forcibly removed from the tracks and carried away by police after refusing to disperse.
An estimated 150 people turned out at St Peter’s Square to voice their opposition to the Government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which includes measures to increase police powers over the right to protest.
Police said the demonstration was ‘largely peaceful’ but that a minority caused ‘significant disruption’ to transport networks.
After repeated prior warnings from officers, police moved in to remove those obstructing the tram lines.
Chief Superintendent Andy Sidebotham said: ‘We have been working closely with partners and engaging with those present at the protest all afternoon to avoid any risk or disruption to the wider public in the city centre and today’s event was largely peaceful and without issue.
‘However, as the day went on the remaining group caused significant disruption to the public of Greater Manchester.
‘I understand the desire to peacefully protest but by blocking trams this smaller group prevented passengers from travelling to work for essential journeys, including health and care workers.
‘This was clearly unacceptable and, in our duty to serve the public, we could not allow to be tolerated any longer.’
The superintendent said police were ‘required to step in and bring it to a fair and swift conclusion,’ after protesters refused to move from the tracks.
It comes after a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Bristol descended into chaos on Friday night.
10 people were arrested following what police called unacceptable ‘violent conduct’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson branded the violence towards police as “disgraceful” and said that police and the city had his full support.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also tweeted that it was clear that ‘thugs’ had only been intent on causing trouble.
However, officers have come under fire after videos appeared to show protesters being hit with shields, sending some tumbling to the ground.
Daily Mirror journalist Matthew Dresch has claimed he was battered as he yelled he was a member of the press.
He tweeted: ‘Police assaulted me at the Bristol protest even though I told them I was from the press. I was respectfully observing what was happening and posed no threat to any of the officers.’
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police said they were ‘making efforts to contact’ Mr Dresch.
They added: ‘A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy & we fully respect the media’s vital role in reporting events fairly & accurately.’
Police have urged people not to take part in further protests in Bristol, asking people to ‘reconsider for the sake of public health’ amid the pandemic.
In a statement, chief superintendent of Bristol Police, Claire Armes said: ‘While Covid restrictions are in place, gatherings of any kind will only put our communities at risk.
‘This pandemic has cost many lives and is still a significant challenge for our colleagues in the NHS. Anyone who chooses to flout the restrictions is playing a part in prolonging this difficult situation.’
Demonstrators took to streets across the country on Saturday for further Kill The Bill protests, including Brighton, Bath and Sheffield as well as Manchester.
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