Boris Johnson condemns ‘racist thuggery’ of rightwing protesters in London

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  • June 13, 2020
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Boris Johnson has condemned violence by protesters in central London on Saturday as “racist thuggery” in a post on Twitter. “Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law. These marches and protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines,” he wrote.

The prime minister continued: “Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.”

Boris Johnson #StayAlert

Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law. These marches & protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.

June 13, 2020

By 9pm on Saturday, police were reporting they had made more than 100 arrests “for offences including breach of the peace, violent disorder, assault on officers, possession of an offensive weapon, possession of class A drugs, and drunk and disorder”.

At one point, the demonstrators, who included far-right activists, took over Parliament Square and pelted mounted police with bottles, cans and a smoke canister. Later on, as police in riot gear formed lines to contain protesters in the square, they also came under attack from a hail of bottles and cans.

Damien Gayle

Scuffles between right wing protesters and police in Parliament sq earlier

June 13, 2020

By about 5.30pm, London ambulance service said it had treated 15 people for injuries, including two police officers. Six of them, all members of the public, had to be taken to hospital.

Saturday’s demonstration was in response to a social media callout to “protect the monuments”, after graffiti on the statue of Winston Churchill and the Cenotaph in London, and the toppling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, during Black Lives Matter protests last weekend.

By about 11am several thousand mainly white protesters had gathered, many of them drinking. At points they chanted the name of the far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson, and “Eng-ger-land”.

Statues of Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi had been boarded off. On the statue of Churchill, someone had stuck a poster with a message that read: “Do not destroy our history. Keep our history and learn from it so the same mistakes don’t happen again.”

Speaking before the clashes, Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First, said the crowds had turned out to “guard our monuments”, telling the PA news agency: “I am extremely fed up with the way that the authorities have allowed two consecutive weekends of vandalism against our national monuments.

“Anyone who comes along today to try and vandalise them will probably be dealt with by all of these Englishmen that turned up, and they’re fed up as well.”

In the aftermath, Priti Patel condemned the “desecration” of the memorial dedicated to PC Keith Palmer, killed during the Westminster Bridge attack, after a man was seen urinating next to it.

In a media clip in which the home secretary described the man’s actions as “absolutely appalling and shameful”, she said: “We have seen a small minority behave in extreme thuggery and violent behaviour today.

“That is simply unacceptable and the individuals that are basically putting the safety of our police officers and the safety of the public at risk will expect to face the full force of the law.”

Patel went on to say that racism “is simply not acceptable”.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said the violence shown towards the police had been “completely unacceptable”. He tweeted: “Today’s protests in London were led by those intent on causing violence and sowing hate for their own ends. We must not let them win.”

Earlier, police had imposed strict conditions on the rightwing rally, and any counter-demonstration held by BLM protesters, after fears that a meeting of the two would lead to violence. However, organisers of BLM demonstrations in central London cancelled their events over fears of conflict. The London Antifascist Assembly (LAFA), which has opposed nearly every rightwing rally in London, late on Friday tweeted that it was rescinding its callout.

Several hundred did rally in Hyde Park, after a callout by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR). A witness at the scene said protesters made speeches before marching to Marble Arch and taking a knee. They dispersed soon after seeing suspected scouts from the opposing demo and fearing a confrontation.

One protester told the Guardian she was disappointed there had not been a bigger presence to oppose the presence of the far right. Weyman Bennett, the co-convenor of SUTR, said: “It’s a disgrace that the far right were allowed to be involved in thuggery and rioting, and that’s because our prime minister gave them a green light by not properly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, which is a call for equality. Thats what Stand Up To Racism is calling for, that’s why we stood with some young people in Marble Arch.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who had urged people in Parliament Square to leave by the 5pm deadline, added his voice to condemn “the shameful scenes of violence, desecration and racism displayed by the right-wing extremists who gathered in our city today”. He praised the police, saying they “did a fantastic job to control the situation” in the face of attacks and abuse.

The crowd began to disperse around 5pm and by about 6.30pm, police were moving the last few far-right protesters away from Parliament Square.

Elsewhere in the country, peaceful anti-racist demonstrations took place. In Brighton, more than 10,000 protesters attended a Black Lives Matter event in the city centre, where Sussex police said the demonstration was peaceful and no arrests were made.

Avon and Somerset Police said about 300 people attended a demonstration in Bristol city centre, with two arrests made.