A video appearing to show a woman being arrested for breaching Covid-19 rules after sitting on a bench was “staged-managed” by anti-lockdown protesters, police say.
Footage showing a woman in Bournemouth being handcuffed and led away by officers has been shared widely today, Sunday, January 10.
Initially police came under fire for stepping in.
Yet Dorset Police tonight said the footage was in their view “planned, stage-managed and recorded”.
In the video, the woman repeatedly says “I was sitting on a bench” as she is apparently led away by officers.
But according to police, it is an elaborate hoax.
They say members of an anti-lockdown protest group who were present in the town on Saturday put the footage together.
The force say three people were arrested following the demonstrations after refusing to give their details to officers who attempted to issue them with fines for breaching coronavirus regulations.
Dorset Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Mark Callaghan said: “We believe this video was planned, stage-managed and recorded by members of the protest group who turned up in multiple areas, several of whom refused to engage and provide their details.
“If people refuse to give their details in such circumstances then it leaves officers with little option but to arrest until the details are established.
“Our officers would only arrest as a last resort.”
Two of those detained were later “de-arrested” after supplying officers with their details and were subsequently fined.
A third person was also released and fined after their details were verified in custody.
At least seven fixed penalty notices were issued to those who breached lockdown rules on the day.
Assistant Chief Constable Callaghan said police made repeated attempts to contact the protest organisers to tell them it should not go ahead, but were unsuccessful.
“It was clear that the group were deliberately organising their activities, walking around in twos and then trying to come together in a ‘flash mob’ style approach, as they have done previously,” he said in a statement.
“This activity went on for a couple of hours.”
Some of the protesters stayed in the area for a “prolonged period of time” even though they were warned by police to leave.
Assistant Chief Constable Callaghan said some participants had also travelled considerable distances to attend the event.
A separate anti-lockdown protest held at Clapham Common in south-west London on Saturday led to 16 arrests.