London’s Metropolitan Police are planning a crackdown on this year’s Million Mask March, the Anonymous movement’s annual Guy Fawkes Night protest.
A curfew and restrictions on assembly are to be imposed to stop “masked criminals seeking to run amok.”
Demonstrators dressed in Guy Fawkes masks, will descend on the capital as part of an annual protest which will march on Westminster to protest austerity measures and unelected power.
Almost 20,000 people said they were planning to attend this year’s event on Facebook.
However, the Metropolitan Police want to stop a repeat of last year’s disorder, when protesters hurled fireworks and debris at officers. More than 50 people were arrested for multiple offences.
“Last year we saw participants causing criminal damage to public property, smashing the windows of businesses and attacking police officers all whilst harassing and intimidating families as they visited theatres, dined out or shopped in the West End,” said Met commander BJ Harrington.
“The public found this completely unacceptable. This was not peaceful protest by any measure.”
Any form of “static assembly” on Trafalgar Square or Parliament Square will for that reason be dispersed under the Public Order Act. The area surrounding Downing Street will also be cordoned off.
“Those who choose to behave like this are not protesters, they are criminals, and they undermine the thousands of people who protest responsibly and safely in London every year,” Harrington added.
“As we look ahead to this weekend, my message is simple: if you want to protest peacefully, that is your right and we want to work with you. If you commit criminal acts – that is not peaceful protest – and you are liable to be arrested.”
— MPS Events (@MetPoliceEvents) November 3, 2016
March organizers published a statement earlier this week urging the police to avoid a heavy handed response.
“We call on the Metropolitan Police to restrain from violence and their usual mob mentality.”
Addressing protesters attending their first Million Mask March, organizers said: “We have simple advise, the police are not your friends, they do not regard you as such, do not regard them as such either.”