Ordinary police officers are calling on the government to place a blanket ban on protests during the pandemic after two weekends of, sometimes violent, mass demonstrations.
The Police Federation of England & Wales asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to take action after officers were injured by those demonstrating against what they saw as attacks on British identity and history on Saturday.
A number were also injured in Black Lives Matter protests the previous weekend prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in the United States.
Federation chairman John Apter said: “In normal times the principle of having the right to peaceful protests is an important one. However, we are not in normal times, we are tackling a deadly virus which is indiscriminate in who it can affect."
“Police officers have provided outstanding professionalism in their dealings with large gatherings during Covid-19 - some of which turned violent at the weekend."
“But we can’t ignore the avoidable risk our members and to those attending the protests are being exposed to. I urge the Home Secretary to be unequivocal in her terms that whilst we are under the threat of this virus, any large gathering or protest must be banned."
“We cannot allow our police officers and members of the public to be put at risk of contracting the virus, especially at such a critical time in our response to the pandemic.”
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of the Solidarity union commented: "The attacks that have taken place on rank and file officers are completely unacceptable. We back our brothers and sisters in the Police Federation to condemn this and call for action to be taken to prevent any reoccurrence. The police are doing a difficult and dangerous job on behalf of us all. Whilst I recognise that it was a minority of protestors on both sides who engaged in violence but this is scant comfort for the injured police workers and their families."
"With freedom comes responsibility. I had hoped that both sets of demonstrators would protest peacefully. Yet they have decided to lose friends and alienate people by allowing some of their supporters to run amok. This is sad as there are genuine, underlying points that both sides are seeking to highlight. If they want to be heard and avoid alienating the general public they must act reasonably and respect that we are a country of laws."
"Separate to that is the question as to whether large scale protests should be held during a pandemic. I think there are other ways that people can express their views apart from confrontational street demonstrations. Everyone needs to exercise restraint and responsibility and here I'd give credit to Black Lives Matter for moving their protest to a different day in an attempt to avoid confrontation with the counter-demonstrators. Demonstration organisers need to carefully consider whether mass demonstrations are a good idea given the violence we've seen so far and our pandemic situation. If they do not then there is a case for temporary restrictions to be placed on the right to protest."