U.K. police crack down on ‘Million Mask March’ protest, 47 arrested

Demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks prepare to march in the Million Mask March, an anti-establishment protest scheduled in more than 670 cities worldwide, in Washington, D.C. on November 5, 2015. Police in London placed strict guidelines in advance of the 2016 Million Mask March after the the previous year's event erupted in violence. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

LONDON, Nov. 6 (UPI) — Police in England implemented strict limitations and made dozens of arrests surrounding the annual “Million Mask March” protest following instances of violence in 2015.

The Metropolitan Police Events Twitter page shared a post stating assemblies in London must begin at 6 p.m. and end no later than 9 p.m. while taking place in designated areas within three locations: Trafalgar Square, Richmond Terrace and Parliament Square.

Approximately 2,000 police officers, including riot police, were assigned to monitor the streets for the event, which has been organized online by “hactivist” group Anonymous since 2011, according to The Guardian.

“Our role is to balance that right to peaceful protest with the right to minimize disruption to the community of people living and working in London,” Pippa Mills, of the Metropolitan police said. “It’s a careful line that we tread when we consider the rights of different people and different groups.”

The BBC reported Metropolitan police made at least 47 arrests for charges including weapons possession, property damage, obstruction and drug possession.

The event is held on Nov. 5, known as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night in remembrance of the gunpowder plot in which a group of Catholics, including explosives expert Guy Fawkes, planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament to kill Protestant King James I in 1605.

Britons traditionally recognize the day with bonfires where an effigy of Fawkes is burned, along with fireworks displays.

Recently, antigovernment protests have included thousands of people who take to the streets donning Guy Fawkes masks popularized by the 2005 film V for Vendetta in protest of austerity economics, official corruption, erosion of civil liberties, surveillance and other causes.

Cities throughout the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Edinburgh and Brussels, observe Million Mask protests, but the largest is centered around London, where Metropolitan police commander B.J. Harrington told USA Today law enforcement would work to avoid the anarchy that took place at last year’s protest.

“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 theaters, dined out or shopped in the West End,” he said. “The public found this completely unacceptable. This was not peaceful protest by any measure.”

Harrington added police would look to protect the citizens’ right to protest as long as their actions remained within the law.

“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,” he said. “If you commit criminal acts — that is not peaceful protest — and you are liable to be arrested.”


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