Sussex Police have been criticised for encouraging people to quit protesting as a New Year’s Resolution.

The force’s specialist protest team tweeted on December 31: “If you intend to quit protesting, then tonight’s the night to do it.” 

It then went on to say that if people did continue to demonstrate then to “keep on talking to us”.

The message prompted a number of angry replies from the public.

One man said: “I’ll quit if you quit policing?” Roy Chard said: “You tweet as if protest is a bad habit that can be given up as a New Year’s Resolution?”

A woman, named only as Ceri, said: “Research shows that protesting is good for you. New Year’s Resolution – encourage more people to take it up.”

The message was re- tweeted – sent on to other people – numerous times as cyberspace condemned the force for the comments.

A spokesman for Smash EDO, which holds weekly protests against the activities of the EDO factory in Brighton, told The Argus it was disappointed the message had been written on an official police account which is linked to Sussex Police’s website.

He said: “Peaceful protest is a democratic right and not something which should be ‘given up’.

“Maybe it was meant as a joke, but it is not one that should have been made.

“It’s not appropriate for the police to discourage people from protesting – even as a joke.

“I think most people appreciate having the right to take part in peaceful, democratic protests.

“There is a sense the police liaison officers do not actually want to work with us.”

Chief Inspector Justin Burtenshaw said: “This was a light-hearted remark on New Year’s Eve and is clearly not to be taken literally – we support the right to peaceful protest and look forward to working with protest and other event organisers in the coming year.

“Twitter is one of the ways our protest liaison team engage directly with the community and is a useful tool to keep people up to date.”

According to Sussex Police’s website, the protest liaison officers’ “primary role is to engage with protest groups prior to, during and after any event”.

It adds: “They will work alongside groups who wish to protest peacefully, always balancing the needs of the wider community.”