There were chaotic scenes in York city centre this afternoon as demonstrators broke through a police cordon.
Hundreds of people flouted the official route for the Unite The North ‘Freedom March’ and some pushed their way through police lines.
Some lit flares as they marched through a city centre packed with Christmas shoppers.
A number of families were clearly alarmed by the situation, and some young children were visibly distressed by the events unfolding around them. It felt at one point as though things were out of control.
Thankfully, however, the demonstration remained mainly peaceful and there are no reports of any casualties.
A large crowd first gathered at Duncombe Place, next to York Minster, to protest at the government’s Covid regulations. Speakers included Gareth Icke, son of the former footballer and conspiracy theorist David Icke.
After the rally, marchers set off through the city centre.
There was a large police presence, including officers on horseback. But, led by an agitator who said the marchers “shouldn’t be following a policeman” along the official route, marchers broke through a police cordon twice.
First they went through a police roadblock on Pavement – some physically pushed past police officers trying to hold them back.
Then officers, York BID Street Rangers and security officers were jostled and shouted at as they marshalled marchers onto High Ousegate.
Minutes later, demonstrators forced their way past a cordon on St Helen’s Square before taking the march along Coney Street.
Carrying placards with slogans including, ‘Please don’t jab kids’ and ‘No medical apartheid’, they chanted ‘Freedom’ and ‘You can stick your poison vaccine up your arse’.
At one point the march split into two. Some tried to force their way into Shambles Market but were turned back onto Parliament Street, alongside the Christmas Market.
Eventually the marchers made their way back to the Minster where they dispersed.