SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – At least five people have been arrested after protests in central London broke into scuffles.
Protesters have been gathering in cities around the world under the banner of the Million Mask March, promoted by the loosely organised internet activist group Anonymous but attracting a range of participants including supporters of anti-capitalist, anti-war and pro-Palestine movements.
London was the scene of one of the largest as thousands, many wearing the Guy Fawkes masks which have become a symbol of Anonymous, gathered in Parliament Square on Wednesday night and later made their way in groups towards other locations including Buckingham Palace and the BBC’s central London studios.
There was a heavy police presence. Officers in riot gear at a number of points later drew batons and clashed with members of the crowd, hours after the protest began gathering in central London at around 6pm before massing near parliament, where fireworks were let off to cheers.
The Metropolitan police had earlier imposed Section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 for a number of hours, which provides powers to remove masks when police fear a crime will be committed. Among those taking part was the comedian Russell Brand, who was surrounded by members of the crowd and the press in Parliament Square.
I think my personal view is that we should have a loving, peaceful protest,” he said, to cheers and some boos.
He added: “Stay cool, stay cool. I think you should be careful. Don’t get beaten up and arrested tonight.”
Also taking part in the march was Steve Foster, a 36-year-old storeman from Liverpool, who said: “The inquiry into institutional paedophilia is probably the main reason [why I am here].
“I am actually a victim myself, though not institutionally, when I was a kid. I want to see a real inquiry and I want to see prosecutions and people jailed in the establishment, where we all know it is rife. That is my biggest reason.
“More and more people have been turning up every year so hopefully it will keep growing and growing until there will be change. There is one solution, revolution.”
Scotland Yard warned Anonymous before the march that officers had powers to remove masks. A handful of arrests were made while the BBC offices went into lockdown as a few hundred protesters had a standoff with police.
A statement on a UK Anonymous website said: “In 2014, we will once again march on the Houses of Parliament in London, as will we in 2015, leading up to 2016 when November 5th falls on a Saturday!
“The standard has now been set, next year we will have bigger banners, louder voices, more fireworks, more people and a louder sound system!”
Supporters of the movement had earlier called for a “massive Anonymous blockade of London city”.
“Complete physical gridlock. Only thing that gets through are fire and rescue and ambulances. Nothing else moves.”
The Metropolitan police said in a statement that it had attempted to contact organisers of the event “without success”.
“The Met police deals with around 4,500 protests and events every year. These can range from a single protester to hundreds of thousands of people walking through the capital’s streets,” it added.
“Officers work with organisers to ensure that people are able to carry out their right to peaceful protest whilst ensuring Londoners can go about their daily business.”
Last year’s Million Mask March saw a handful of protesters charged after hundreds descended on Buckingham Palace and Parliament Square.
Fifteen arrests were made during last year’s protest, which saw demonstrators clashing with police and a fire started near the palace, as well as damage to Nelson’s Column and the Victoria Memorial. Events of differing size took pace in hundreds of cities including Sydney, Auckland, Paris, Berlin, Edinburgh and US centres including San Francisco, New York and Washington DC.