Demonstrations have been held across England against plans to increase police powers to control protests.

Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, thousands of people marched in towns and cities in protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests – including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.

Throughout the day, thousands of people took part in what various police forces described as “peaceful” Kill the Bill protests in regions including London, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, Dorset and Bristol.

By Saturday evening, the Metropolitan Police said that “a small minority” of protestors, who were not social distancing, were still in London’s Parliament Square.

Arrests were being made after they turned down requests to leave, police said.

The Metropolitan Police later said that ten officers had been injured, “none of these are believed to be serious”, and that 26 people had been arrested for a variety of offences including assault on police and breach of the peace.

A woman was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon after a knife was recovered.

Commander Ade Adelekan, who described it as “challenging day for officers”, said: “The vast majority of people who turned out in central London today did so while adhering to social distancing.

‘Kill The Bill’ protests
Police scuffle with demonstrators during a ‘Kill The Bill’ protest in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“They engaged with my officers when required and left when asked – I would like to thank them for doing so.”

He added: “We remain in the middle of a global pandemic and we have made great progress in controlling the spread of the virus; we will not allow the selfish actions of a small number of people to put Londoners’ progress in jeopardy.”

Dozens of police with riot helmets had arrived in Westminster as protesters continued the stand-off with officers.

The majority of protesters from the Kill the Bill demonstration, who gathered at Parliament Square earlier in the day, had dispersed several hours earlier.

Those still present shouted “shame on you” repeatedly at officers.

The remaining protesters marched down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where violent scuffles broke out with police.

‘Kill The Bill’ protests
Demonstrators on College Green in Bristol (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Projectiles were thrown by demonstrators and several people were led away in handcuffs.

Earlier at the demonstration in Parliament Square former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told crowds that the policing was Bill a “very dangerous, slippery slope,” as he defended the right to protest.

To cheers and applause, he said: “If we don’t protest, things don’t change.”

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Demonstrators in Parliament Square, London (Ian West/PA)

More than 1,000 people  attended Bristol’s Kill the Bill protest, according to Avon and Somerset Police.

The force said that officers had sought to “engage with protesters” and to ensure the demonstration took place peacefully.

Later in the evening, about 100 people began marching again – and Avon and Somerset Police had to shut off part of the M32 motorway to traffic after protesters sat on the road.

The motorway was closed to inbound traffic at junction 3 “in the interests of safety”, a spokesman said.

There was a low-key response from Northumbria Police as hundreds of people gathered beneath Grey’s Monument in Newcastle.

Protesters, including one who held up a placard saying “we will not be silenced”, cheered as a singer with a guitar performed in opposition to the proposed bill.

‘Kill The Bill’ protests
Protesters in Victoria Square, Birmingham (Jacob King/PA)

Demonstrators who marched from the monument through Newcastle city centre chanted: “Whose streets, our streets.”

Many took the knee at the Civic Centre and held a minute’s silence for victims of oppression, after which a round of applause broke out.

Dorset Police thanked those who took part in “peaceful protests” in Bournemouth and Weymouth, and stuck to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Superintendent Richard Bell said: “We have always sought to find the right balance between the rights of protesters and those of residents and businesses, while also considering the very real risks from the spread of the virus.”