Boris Johnson decries ‘racist thuggery’ after London protests become violent

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United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday decried “racist thuggery” after violent clashes broke out between far-right protestors and anti-racism demonstrators in London.

The violence took place amid escalating unrest in the U.S. and other parts of the world in wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. In response, protestors in the U.K. have targeted monuments of figures they’ve deemed symbols of racism in recent weeks. 

On Saturday, counterprotestors gathered for what was advertised as a demonstration to “protect the monuments” in Parliament Square. The protest was announced after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol and graffiti was tagged on a statue of Winston Churchill. 

Thousands of people travelled into London for the demonstration, which resulted in violent scuffles between right-wing protestors and demonstrators speaking out against racism. Video captured in Parliament Square showed right-wing protestors at one point pelting horse-mounted police officers with bottles and cans.

Stones were also lobbed at police at a bridge near the Waterloo train station, Reuters reported.

“Racist thuggery has no place on our streets,” Johnson said on Twitter. “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,” he added. 

The London Metropolitan Police Department said that more than 100 people were arrested on Saturday for offenses including breach of the peace, violent disorder and assault on officers. 

The city had walled off statues of Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi ahead of the protests to avoid any possible damage, The Guardian reported. The Metropolitan police said Sunday that it had arrested a 28-year-old man for allegedly urinating on a memorial dedicated to Keith Palmer, a police officer killed by a terrorist in 2017. 

The arrest came after a photo appeared on social media apparently showing the suspect committing the act.

London mayor Sadiq Khan blamed Saturday’s events on “right-wing extremists” and commended police for how they controlled the situation. 

“Millions of Londoners will have been disgusted by the shameful scenes of violence, desecration and racism displayed by the right-wing extremists who gathered in our city today,” he said. 

Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said, “I cannot breathe.” The incident spurred massive demonstrations throughout the world, as well as a renewed push from many activists for statues dedicated to figures who espoused racist views to be removed. 

In the U.S., protestors have toppled several statutes commemorating leaders of the Confederacy. 

Churchill is widely admired in the U.K. for leading to the country during World War II, though some demonstrators have argued that he expressed racist and anti-Semitic beliefs. Johnson said last week that it was “shameful” that a Churchill statue was facing the threat of being targeted. 

Tags Boris Johnson George Floyd Winston Churchill
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