Peckham: Met Police say 45 arrests after protesters blocked Bibby Stockholm coach and 'assaulted officers'

Police say that 45 protesters in Peckham were arrested after they blocked a coach from taking asylum seekers to the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Dozens of protesters wearing face coverings surrounded the vehicle outside the Best Western in Peckham Road around 8.40am on Thursday, and were not cleared from the area until roughly 4pm.

Shortly after 6pm Scotland Yard confirmed that officers had arrested 45 people and said that “a number of officers have reported being assaulted”.

After a surge of officers arrived around lunchtime the protesters were removed from around the coach, but they then blocked the road. Several were then then arrested.

Video taken on Thursday morning showed an apparently peaceful protest, with activists surrounding the coach with linked arms, chanting “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”.

Police and protesters surrounding the coach (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Police and protesters surrounding the coach (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Lime bikes were placed under the wheels of the coach to stop it moving and there were unconfirmed reports the coach’s tyres were slashed.

By the afternoon, crowds were seated on the ground around the coach and dozens of police officers were at the scene, linking arms as they attempted to form a barrier around the vehicle.

Crowds were filmed chanting “shame on you” at the officers, as they scuffled and told protesters to “step back”.

Photos showed police physically removing protesters from the scene.

A man speaking over a megaphone was heard to say: “The Government wants to make it illegal to protect our friends.

“We have reason to believe more cops are on the way. If you are vulnerable to arrest or have insecure immigrations stations you may want to leave.

“There are more of us than they are of them. They don’t have the power to stop us. Our love is powerful, stronger than any law, stronger than any police cordon. Our love protects us.

“This coach isn’t going anywhere. We will be here until they go.”

Police said there was one arrest for a racially aggravated public order offence by someone who was not part of the protest group.

The area was reported to have been cleared with the empty coach moving on by 4.30pm.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said: “Police were called at around 08:40hrs to reports of a group of protesters near a hotel in Peckham Road SE15.

“There were reports that a coach had been obstructed by people and bicycles. A number of people have been arrested for offences including obstruction of the highway, and one for a racially aggravated public order offence. They have all been taken into custody.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: “It saddens me greatly to say that a number of officers have been assaulted in the court of their duty following an incident in Peckham today where they sought to uphold the law.

“It was reported that a coach due to transport people to a location in Dorset had been prevented from leaving by a group of people who stood around it and obstructed it with bicycles. We were not made aware of this operation before hand.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly described the protesters as “a small group of students, posing for social media”.

Police confronting protesters who are forming a blockade around the coach (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Police confronting protesters who are forming a blockade around the coach (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

He said: “Housing migrants in hotels costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds every day.

“We will not allow this small group of students, posing for social media, to deter us from doing what is right for the British public.”

The Home Office branded the protesters’ actions “intimidatory and aggressive”.

Downing Street urged the protesters to allow immigration officers to get on with their duties.

”[The Prime Minister] would urge people to allow Home Office enforcement officers to carry out their duties,” a spokesman for No 10 said.

“He obviously fully supports the authorities and the police to do what is necessary to ensure that the operation is able to be carried out successfully.”

Police said on X they were called to the scene around 8.40am.

Protest group ‘end police violence’ posted on X: “We’ll be blocking this coach until we know for sure that our friends won’t be snatched today.”

Journalist Kate Middleton, who was at the scene, wrote on X: “Police and home office security say the Peckham coach to Bibby Stockholm has been cancelled - but they won’t provide any proof/confirmation. 100s of People are holding the coach here in Peckham until confirmation.”

Police at the scene on Thursday afternoon (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Police at the scene on Thursday afternoon (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

The Home Office said Thursday’s incident was not an immigration enforcement visit.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This behaviour is intimidatory and aggressive. As part of our commitment to significantly reducing the use of hotels, asylum seekers are being moved into alternative accommodation to reduce costs on the taxpayer.

“We have returned 150 hotels to local communities and we work closely with accommodation providers to manage the exit process in a way which limits the impact on local authorities and asylum seeker.”

The Home Office abandoned plans to move a group of asylum seekers to the Bibby barge in the wake of protests in Margate last week.

Thursday’s scene is reminiscent of an incident that happened at an immigration raid in Peckham in 2022, in which hundreds of protesters gathered outside a block of flats in Evan Cook Close to stop a van carrying a resident away from the scene.

The Met police later said the man arrested “on suspicion of immigration offences” had been bailed.