A video appearing to show a woman being arrested for breaching Covid-19 rules after sitting on a bench was “staged-managed” by anti-lockdown protesters, Dorset Police said.
The footage, which has been shared widely online, shows a woman in Bournemouth being handcuffed and led away by officers as she repeatedly tells them “I was sitting on a bench”.
But police said they believed the clip was “planned, stage-managed and recorded” by members of an anti-lockdown protest group who were present in the town on Saturday.
The force said three people were arrested following the demonstrations, after refusing to give their details to officers who attempted to issue them with fines for breaching coronavirus regulations.
Dorset Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Mark Callaghan said: “We believe this video was planned, stage-managed and recorded by members of the protest group who turned up in multiple areas, several of whom refused to engage and provide their details.
“If people refuse to give their details in such circumstances then it leaves officers with little option but to arrest until the details are established.
“Our officers would only arrest as a last resort.”
Two of those detained were later “de-arrested” after supplying officers with their details and were subsequently fined, police said.
A third person was also released and fined after their details were verified in custody.
The force said at least seven fixed penalty notices were issued to those who breached lockdown rules on the day.
Police made repeated attempts to contact the protest organisers to request that it did not go ahead, but were unsuccessful, Mr Callaghan said.
“It was clear that the group were deliberately organising their activities, walking around in twos and then trying to come together in a ‘flash mob’ style approach, as they have done previously,” he said in a statement.
“This activity went on for a couple of hours.”
Some of the protesters were found to have remained in the area for a “prolonged period of time”, despite being warned by police.
Mr Callaghan said some of those taking part had also travelled “considerably” from outside the Dorset area.
A separate anti-lockdown protest was held at Clapham Common in south-west London on Saturday, resulting in 16 arrests, the Metropolitan Police said.