Several thousand anti-lockdown marchers took to the streets of the UK capital on Thursday evening, appearing to catch the police off-guard due to their numbers. One police spokesman described the unrest later in the evening as “spontaneous.”

The original march – which had been publicised on social media – started at 18:00 near Charing Cross and protesters tried to get into Trafalgar Square – the planned starting point – but were stopped by police. Although the Million Mask March is an annual event held on November 5, the evening provided a focus for many protesters against strict lockdown measures, which came into effect on Thursday.

A police spokesman said: “We remain in a national health crisis and new heightened restrictions have been brought in to limit the spread of Coronavirus. This action is being taken to keep everyone safe. A policing plan will remain in place throughout the night.”

At one point the police kettled demonstrators and picked out individuals in the crowd for arrest. A total of 190 people were arrested.

The Million Mask March has been described as a “protest against austerity, the infringement of rights, war crimes, corrupt politicians and to reinstate liberty, attracting gatherings of anti-austerity and extreme left wing/environmentalist protest groups to highlight their respective causes.” However, it was clear that many of the protesters had a single issue reason to take part – the new lockdown.

Meanwhile, in Manchester angry students tore down a fence that had been erected overnight around a hall of residence.

The student response appeared to have caught the university off-guard. Prof Nancy Rothwell, the vice-chancellor, said: “I sincerely apologise for the concern and distress caused by the erecting of a fence around our Fallowfield halls of residence today. This was not our intention – in fact quite the reverse.”

While most people in the UK adhere to lockdown rules, many are angry at the way in which the top government advisor Dominic Cummings flouted the rules earlier this year, and yet remains in office. Patience with on/off lockdowns is wearing thin.

PHOTO: Million Mask Marchers in 2019