Anti-vaccination protesters tried to storm the headquarters of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in London on Friday, with four police officers injured in the melee.
“A number of protesters have become violent towards police … This is unacceptable,” Scotland Yard tweeted in response to violence in the Canary Wharf area of the capital.
“The police have been here all week because we were expecting Extinction Rebellion, so most of the police and security's been outside the banks,” Canary Wharf councillor Andrew Wood said.
“So, whether the anti-vaxxers realised this or not, the police were ready for a protest. It's just that it was anti-vaxxers not Extinction Rebellion who turned up this afternoon.”
London police have been on high alert the past two weeks as Extinction Rebellion held a series of rolling protests demanding an end to the funding of fossil fuels, with protests taking place at Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the Bank of England.
Video posted on social media showed anti-vaccination protesters reaching the doors of MHRA headquarters, with security guards on the other side.
Seconds later, police pushed their way through the crowd and formed a cordon outside the building's entrance and scuffled with protesters trying to enter.
The mask-free demonstrators shouted that they were there “to protect the next generation”.
They later moved towards central London and gathered outside the Science Museum, where they clashed with police, who proceeded to make arrests.
The latest protests, comprising dozens of demonstrators who massed at several sites throughout the afternoon, comes after anti-vaccination protesters stormed the offices of UK television news broadcaster ITN at the end of August.
Britain is continuing its successful mass vaccination drive, which has resulted in more than three quarters of adults becoming fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
On Friday, teenagers with underlying health conditions became eligible for the vaccine for the first time, but scientists have ruled out the necessity of injections for healthy children aged 12-15.
One of the next key hurdles is the back-to-school season in England, top epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson said, as it is likely to bring a “significant surge” in Covid-19 infections.
“Whether that’s going to require any rolling back of the relaxation of restrictions is too early to say. It really depends on the level of healthcare demand,” he said.
Vaccines have led to fewer hospital admissions, but a very high number of cases could still lead to pressure on the healthcare system, he added.
The UK government is also spending millions of pounds on air quality monitors in classrooms in an attempt to understand and limit classroom infections.