Extra police officers are set to be brought in to manage the increasing challenge posed by protestors – as the region’s commissioner said he was “particularly concerned about the ongoing threat of anti-vaccine protests”.
Simon Foster, the Police and Crime Commissioner, suggested protests were becoming a drain on the force’s resources.
There have been a number of anti-vax demonstrations over recent weeks, particularly since vaccine passports, which will be scrapped this week, were introduced by the Government.
The Insulate Britain group also caused disruption when they brought traffic to a standstill during a protest in the centre of Birmingham. A recent Extinction Rebellion demonstration at an Amazon distribution centre in Coventry also took up considerable police resources.
West Midlands Police will aim to boost its numbers of liaison officers to deploy to protests and evidence gathering teams to monitor planned events. It was not clear whether the extra resources would new recruits or drafted in from other departments.
A controversial so-called anti-protest bill was defeated in the House of Lords last week and it will now go back to the Commons.
A West Midlands Police report on the issue said anti-vax protests are “expected to rise again with recent Government announcements and this remains a well-supported thematic for protest within the West Midlands”.
It added they were “predominantly peaceful” they had “also involved some more disruptive elements”.
A hardline group of anti-vaxxers were reported to security services after footage emerged earlier this month of them running ‘training drills’ at Chasewater Country Park near Burntwood in Staffordshire.
Mr Foster said: “Protest has been a growing source of demand for West Midlands Police. The police have a role to play in order to facilitate lawful and peaceful assembly, but this must of course be balanced with the need to ensure public order and to keep the peace.
“I am particularly concerned about the ongoing threat of anti-vaccine protests.
“I note that West Midlands Police are engaged in an ongoing review of the need to enhance the Force and regional capability for Protest Removal Teams, in view of an anticipated increase in the form of protest that might require this type of enhanced capability.”
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