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Crowds gather at Stonehenge for summer solstice despite COVID concerns

LONDON (AP) — Dozens of people have ignored advice not to travel to Stonehenge for the annual summer solstice celebrations, which were cancelled Monday due to coronavirus concerns.

English Heritage, which looks after the Neolithic monument, had planned a live feed of the sunrise at Stonehenge for the second year in a row. But the organization said that program had to be interrupted because of safety concerns after “a number of people have chosen to disregard our request to not travel to the stones this morning.”

Thousands of people who tuned in to watch the sunrise at the stones online ended up watching pre-recorded footage before the live feed returned around 5 a.m.

Video from Britain’s PA news agency and elsewhere showed dozens of people gathering inside the stone circle, with some scaling a low fence to climb inside the restricted area to reach the stones. Some were seen dancing and others held a banner that read “Standing for Stonehenge.”

A person looks up as she attends the celebration of the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge ancient stone circle, despite official events being cancelled amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near Amesbury, Britain, June 21, 2021. Photo by Toby Melville/REUTERS

English Heritage said it was “disappointing” to see people “act in a way that put themselves, our staff and the police at risk” during a pandemic.

The summer solstice typically draws tens of thousands of people to the stone circle in southern England to celebrate the longest day of the year.

Wiltshire Police said despite a “minor incursion into the stone circle” early Monday, the solstice weekend was peaceful. One woman in her 50s was arrested in the area on suspicion of drunk and disorderly behavior, the force said.