Three people have gone on trial for assaulting police officers after the keys were grabbed out of an advertising van during an anti-Covid protest.

Andrew Garner started placing stickers on the van, which was urging people to get their vaccinations when it became stuck in traffic in Middlesbrough town centre.

After the driver got out to remonstrate with the 65-year-old he grabbed the keys out of the ignition and threw them away before police arrived on the scene.

In the ensuing melee members of the protest group could be heard screaming abuse at officers, including calling them ‘Nazi scum’ while claiming ‘police brutality’ when they tried to arrest the defendants.

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Teesside Crown Court heard how Garner pushed or punched a police officer in the chest as he attempted to arrest him.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said Garner’s wife, Julie, then became involved when she tried to intervene and assaulted four officers by grabbing at their jackets while pushing or pulling them.

The peaceful demonstration through Middlesbrough ended with the three arrests.

A third defendant, Malcolm Lewis, was caught on mobile footage grabbing hold of another police officer and dragging him into the middle of Albert Road as the protest descended into trouble.

CCTV footage captured by cameras on the Teesside Magistrates’ Court building showed the protestors swarming around the van and placing stickers all over the van including on the digital advertising screen.

Mr Cleasby said: “Andrew Garner went to the driver’s door and took out the keys and threw them away from the vehicle onto a high ledge where the driver couldn’t reach them.

“The situation escalated, there was a risk of public disorder due to the defendant’s behaviour and the police moved in to arrest him.”

As the officers tried move Garner towards the police van the protestors swarmed around them before Mrs Garner and Malcolm Lewis started to grab hold of officers to prevent them making the arrest.

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The judge heard how the Garners were both arrested on the day of the protest in July 2021, and their co-accused was arrested when he was recognised at a similar protest in Newcastle the following month.

Mrs Garner, 60, of Chelmsford Avenue, Stockton, has pleaded not guilty to four charges of assaulting an emergency worker, her husband Andrew, of the same address has denied one charge of assaulting an emergency worker.

Lewis, of Chepstow Gardens, Newcastle, also denies a single charge of assaulting an emergency worker following the protest on July 31, 2021.

The trial continues.