A 'LARGE' protest against Covid-related measures is set to take place in York city centre tomorrow (Saturday) - one of the busiest shopping days before Christmas.

Council chiefs today said they were working with police and other partners to "minimise disruption to visitors and to ensure the event passes without incident".

Temporary traffic measures will be in place along the route of the march.

Organised by The North Unites, the protest, which police say is due to start at around noon, features speakers including leading campaigner Gareth Icke - the son of former broadcaster David Icke.

A heightened police presence will be in place but organisers said: "This will be a peaceful event. Violent or abusive behaviour WILL NOT be tolerated."

York Press: The route of the march on Saturday

York campaigner Liam Hunt said: "We expect a large gathering. Primarily it is a 'pro choice freedom march' in response to the government using discriminatory tactics and coercion to increase Covid vaccine uptake.

"We feel that everyone has/should have the freedom to decide which medical treatments they have without fear of being penalised or stigmatised in the form of (divisive) vaccine passports."

North Yorkshire Police said the protest was due to start at around noon near York Minster and is expected to last around four hours.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: "Officers are currently working to facilitate a peaceful event and ensure the safety of both demonstrators and members of the public."

York Press: One of the posters advertising the event

The demonstration will involve a march through the city, which is due to set off from York Minster at around 2pm and will take a circular, clockwise route around the city via Deangate, Aldwark and Stonebow.

The march will then turn into Colliergate and proceed through central parts of the city along Low Petergate, Stonegate, Davygate and Parliament Street. From there demonstrators will proceed back to the Minster, via High Ousegate, Coney Street, Blake Street and Duncombe Place.

The police spokesperson added: "Visitors and residents are advised that as the march moves through the city centre, footpaths and streets could become congested and access to certain areas may be limited at times."

North Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Pannone said: “We’re working to ensure a peaceful demonstration while also ensuring residents, visitors and businesses experience as little disruption as possible.

“Fortunately, we are very experienced at managing demonstrations and large scale events in the region and have a number of resources to hand to ensure everything runs smoothly. Officers will be patrolling and engaging with those involved and members of the public, so that feeling of safety and security is maintained for everyone in the city.

“I understand that residents and business owners may be concerned about the activity and the impact it may have on a busy Saturday afternoon, a few weeks before Christmas.

"That’s why there will be an increased and visible police presence, to minimise disruption, ensure public safety at all times and to enable the city centre to return to normal as soon as possible, once the activity has ended.

“Everyone has the right to voice their opinion. Peaceful protest is key part of UK democracy and a right which police uphold and facilitate. I would ask that both residents and demonstrators respect these rights and each other’s opinions, so that the event can take place in a peaceful manner without any incident.”

Cllr Carol Runicman, executive member for health and adult social care at City of York Council, said: "The right to hold peaceful protests is a fundamental democratic right. I do hope that those attending the demonstration will work with the police to minimise any disruption and respect the thousands of people who will be enjoying the holiday season in the city centre.

“Given the challenges ahead, particularly over winter and for our health services, I would like to thank all residents and businesses who continue to play their part and follow the latest public health advice."

She added: "Christmas is a very special and busy time in York, so it has been great to see people looking after each other by wearing masks, getting their jabs and following health advice, which is what will help us protect each other, keep businesses open and enjoy all that our city has to offer.”

On the day of the demonstration, North Yorkshire Police and the City of York Council will be sharing updates and information via their Twitter and Facebook accounts. To keep up to date, follow the hashtag #YorkDemo via @NYorksPolice and @CityofYork