Police expecting ‘large crowds’ in London on fourth weekend of anti-racism protests

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  • June 20, 2020
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Anti-racism protesters are preparing to march on cities across the UK for the fourth weekend in a row, with police expecting ‘large crowds’ in London.

Forces are expecting demonstrators to walk through the capital as well as cities including Glasgow and Birmingham.

Officers have asked people not to attend to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, they are urging those who do to discourage violence and socially distance.

The vast majority of protests that have taken place over the last month have been peaceful.

However, at a counter-protest last weekend, demonstrators – including some from far-right groups – clashed with police and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement near Westminster and Trafalgar Square.

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Scotland Yard’s Commander Alex Murray said more than 100 officers had been assaulted at protests since the end of May

‘I really hope we’re not going to see what we saw last weekend or the weekend before,’ he said.

‘We don’t have any information there’s anyone from the right wing attending but we have got information that large crowds of people will be attending.’

Gatherings of more than six people are still banned under coronavirus lockdown regulations.

Mr Murray said there was ‘still a health crisis going on’ and urged people to be safe.

‘We want people to be safe, we don’t want people to come to London and get infected. So we’d encourage people to stay at home.

‘If you feel compelled to protest, please use your influence and encourage other protesters not to be violent and to remain safe and socially distanced.

‘We understand people want their voice heard and nobody really wants violence and it’s only a small minority who spoil it for each other and hurt the police.’

BLM had cancelled a planned protest in Hyde Park last Saturday amid fears it would be hijacked by groups, including Britain First, who had vowed to ‘defend statues’ after some were boarded up to prevent them being vandalised.

A 5pm curfew was among measures put in place last weekend, with fears of clashes between rival protesters.

Protective covers were put on monuments, including the statue of Winston Churchill, which had previously been daubed with graffiti accusing the wartime prime minister of being a racist.

Mr Murray said there would be no pre-prepared cordons around the statues, saying police will ‘act on intelligence and information’ if they hear of plans to target them.

He said: ‘The police have never asked for those statues to be protected. That’s a matter for the local authority. Our focus is on reducing violence and protecting the public, protecting citizens.

‘But we will also investigate if criminal damage takes place. So we will prevent violence and we’ll also try to prevent criminal damage.’

Protests against racial inequality have taken place across the globe since the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.

He died when a white police officer held him down by pressing his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on 25 May.

Scotland Yard’s officers have arrested almost 230 protesters – 128 of whom were detained during the counter-demonstration last weekend – and released 35 pictures of people they want to speak to.

Andrew Banks, 28, from Essex, was jailed for two weeks on Monday after admitting urinating next to a memorial to PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death in the 2017 Westminster terror attack.

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