A statue of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in London was covered in graffiti as anti-racism protests were held across the UK over the weekend.
While demonstrations were largely peaceful, small skirmishes broke out in some parts of the capital, with people lobbing bottles and fireworks at police. Thousands have taken to the streets following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
His killing sparked riots and peaceful protests across the United States as people demand an end to police brutality and white supremacy. Since then protests have spread across the world.
Yesterday a protester was seen climbing onto The Cenotaph war memorial and trying to set a Union Jack on fire while another painted ‘was a racist’ on the statue of Sir Winston, who led the country during World War Two.
One of the demonstrators was heard saying: ‘Tagged up Churchill as a racist on the statue of Churchill because he is a confirmed racist. He didn’t fight the Nazis for the Commonwealth or for anything else or for any personal freedoms. He fought the Nazis purely to protect the Commonwealth against the invasion by foreign forces.
‘He didn’t do it for black people or people of colour. He did it purely for colonialism. People will be angry but at the end of the day I’m angry that for many years we’ve been oppressed. You can’t enslave people, have the largest colonial empire ever in history and they try and come like ”yeah let’s be peaceful” it don’t work like that.’
Video footage shows a crowd of protesters chanting ‘Churchill was a racist’ and ‘Boris is a racist’ as another group of people appear to stand around the statue in an attempt to protect it.
People left banners saying ‘British Colonialism is to Blame’ and ‘What if it was your son?’ at the base of the monument and attached a Black Lives Matter sign on Churchill’s belly.
Yesterday protesters in Bristol toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston, dragging it across the street and dumping it in the harbour. The monument had previously been subject of an 11,000 strong petition to have it removed by people who believed it celebrated colonialism.
Home Secretary Priti Patel called the move ‘utterly disgraceful’ and said it had become a ‘distraction from the cause in which people are actually protesting about and trying to empathise and sympathise with.’
The PM said that while people had the right to protest peacefully, the demonstrations had been ‘subverted by thuggery’.
On Twitter, Johnson added: ‘They are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve. Those responsible will be held to account.’
Commenting on unrest in the capital, Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick said 27 officers had been injured in ‘shocking and completely unacceptable’ assaults during anti-racism protests over the past week, including 14 on Saturday.
Two were seriously hurt and an officer who fell from her horse underwent surgery. Authorities had urged protesters not to gather in London again on Sunday, warning they risked spreading coronavirus.
But demonstrators still packed the road outside the U.S. Embassy on the south bank of the River Thames. They later marched across the river towards parliament and Downing Street, pausing on the bridge to kneel on one knee and chant ‘Justice, now!’ In Parliament Square.
Holding a sign reading ‘white silence = violence’, 28-year-old protester Hermione Lake said: ‘Now is the time: we need to do something. We have become so complacent in the UK but the racism that killed George Floyd was born in the UK in terms of colonialism and white supremacy.
‘We need to completely gut the system … We need massive reform, massive change.’
Police said 29 people had been arrested during Saturday’s protest in the capital for offences including violent disorder. A further 12 people were arrested on Sunday in central London, the majority of them for public order offences.
Pauline Nandoo, 60, said she had been protesting racism since the 1970s and the images of violence at the end of Saturday’s protest had not deterred her.
Speaking with her brother and 13-year-old daughter, she said: ‘There’s children of all ages and older adults here. They are going to experience what we have experienced, and we have to try to make that not happen.’
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