Peaceful protests will be banned under new lockdown rules for England preventing two or more people from meeting, No10 has confirmed.
Demonstrations were exempt from restrictions on gatherings during the first national lockdown, with a series of Black Lives Matter rallies and anti-lockdown protests taking place over the summer.
But strict rules preventing people from meeting more than one other person during the second national lockdown will now apply to protests.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman confirmed the draconian new rules will cover demos, which means peaceful protests of more than two people with be illegal.
The spokesman said: “Protests are not exempt from the rules.
“But as they have done throughout the pandemic, police and local authorities will engage, explain and encourage people to follow the rules before moving on to enforce the law.
“The right to peaceful protest is one of the cornerstones of our democracy but we are facing unprecedented circumstances and any gathering risks spreading the disease, potentially leading to more deaths, so it is vital we all play our part in controlling the virus.”
Protests are not explicitly addressed in the legislation, which was published on Tuesday, but the formal exemption has been removed.
MPs were expected to approve the measures on Wednesday afternoon, despite opposition from some Tory backbenchers to another national lockdown.
It would place England into a four-week national lockdown on Thursday, with pubs and restaurants forced to close and non-essential shops shuttered.
The ban on protest drew criticism from human rights campaign group Liberty, which tweeted: “We’ve always supported proportionate measures to protect lives, but people must not be criminalised en masse for voicing opposition to Government action.”