Boris Johnson believes Britain is not a racist country and backed police to arrest any Black Lives Matter supporter who attacked officers or defaced statues, his spokesman said today
Downing Street has said the toppling of the monument to 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol yesterday was an ‘act of criminal damage’ as Avon and Somerset Police came under fire for not holding anyone over the incident despite admitting it had identified 17 suspects.
His spokesman said: ‘The PM doesn’t doubt that there continues to be discrimination and racism, but does not agree that this is a racist country. We have made very significant progress on this issue, but there remains more to do and we will not be complacent in our efforts to stamp out racism and discrimination where it happens.’
When asked about the Colston statue’s destruction he said: ‘People can campaign for the removal of a statue, but what happened yesterday was a criminal act and when the criminal law is broken that is unacceptable and the police will want to hold to account those responsible’.
Mr Johnson received an update from Met chief Dame Cressida Dick on Sunday night after more disturbances in Westminster, which saw 35 officers injured by rocks and bottles. There were 36 arrests yesterday.
‘They have our full support in tackling any violence, vandalism and disorderly behaviour,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said, adding: ‘It is completely unacceptable they were subjected to attacks over the weekend’
It came as his Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to bring violent Black Lives Matter protesters to ‘justice’ – but police officers battling the activists in the streets say their bosses have got their tactics ‘completely wrong’.
The Home Secretary said that the UK demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis had been ‘subverted by thuggery’ and told those responsible: ‘Justice will follow’.
She told the Commons this afternoon: ‘We strongly support the right to protest peacefully but that does not extend to the violent behaviour that we have witnessed across the country throughout the weekend. And when it comes to any assault on our brave police that is completely unacceptable. Any perpetrator should be in absolutely no doubt that they will be arrested and prosecuted.’
She said: ‘We are privileged to live in an open, democratic country with many values entrenched not just in our constitution but also in a rules-based system. There is no justification for violence at all. And when it comes to exercising people’s voices and obviously their particular issues and concerns there are many avenues through which those voices and concerns can be raised and made at a local council level.
‘Obviously that is the right way to approach these issues.’
Rank-and-file officers left bloodied by attacks with sticks and rocks have today accused their bosses of allowing ‘lawlessness’ to take hold because of public perception instead of allowing them to deal with the attackers ‘more robustly’.
Police push back three young men who try to join the protest in Whitehall yesterday as Boris Johnson said today that Britain is not a racist country
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally yesterday
As the protests descended into chaos, one protester (left and right) was seen climbing on the historic monument The Cenotaph and setting fire to the Union Jack flag
Arrests on Whitehall yesterday evening, including this man dragged away by his arms and legs, are said to have sparked violence
A protester is placed in a spit hood as he is restrained by Police Officers close to Westminster tube station yesterday
Another suspect is pinned down on the fifth night of violence in Central London. Police unions say the tactics have been wrong
A protester is pulled away as peaceful demonstrations in the capital turn violent in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the U.S.
I tagged the statue of Churchill because he’s a confirmed racist’: Defiant Black Lives Matter protester says he desecrated the wartime PM’s plinth
The Black Lives Matter protester who ‘tagged’ the statue of Winston Churchill said he did it because Britain’s greatest Prime Minister was a ‘confirmed racist’ who cared more about colonialism than black people.
The masked young man, who is being searched for by the Metropolitan Police today for the vandalism in Parliament Square, claimed that Mr Churchill only fought the Nazis to protect the empire – not for ‘people of colour’.
Using black spray paint yesterday he daubed the phrase ‘was racist’ below the wartime leader’s name, leaving the monument reading: ‘Churchill was a racist’. A ‘f*** your agenda was also added.
After leaving Parliament Square last night he spoke to a BBC reporter and said: ’I tagged up the statue of Churchill because he’s a confirmed racist. He fought the Nazis to protect the Commonwealth from invasion – he didn’t do it for black people or for people of colour.
‘It was purely for colonialism. People will be angry – but I’m angry that for many years we have been oppressed’.
He added; You can’t enslave people, have the largest colonial empire in history and be like ‘Yeah let’s be peaceful – let’s talk’. It don’t work like that. We’re p***ed off. F**k that’. He also said that people from BAME backgrounds who fought in the Second World War are not properly recognised for their sacrifices.
In Bristol there have been no arrests at all in relation to the destruction of Colston’s statue despite 17 suspects being identified and Avon and Somerset Police have said they have ‘no regrets’ about not stopping it being pulled down and thrown in the city’s harbour.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy has compared those who toppled the monument to followers of Martin Luther King and the suffragettes – but ‘should have come down a long time ago in a democratic way’.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I’m quite sure that those young people who brought that statue down knew that they would be facing the law but that was a price they were willing to pay and there are many examples throughout history, from Martin Luther King to Harvey Milk, who protested on behalf of gay rights. Many, many men and women following these people and being prepared to break the law because they believed the issue of justice they wanted to shine a light on was a bigger project’.
Since last Wednesday 49 officers in London have been injured but there have only been around 60 arrests – 36 people alone yesterday – and Ken Marsh, chief of the Met Police Federation, has asked Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to apologise to her officers and said: ‘Let me be clear, we as a police service can deal with these outbreaks of disorder, no problems. But it seems we are more concerned about image and perception rather than protecting our brave police officers and maintaining order.
‘It’s sadly now clear – and frankly has been clear for a number of days – that some people are using these protests as an excuse to attack police officers. We have had enough warnings. The tactics being used by the Metropolitan Police are very wrong. And need to be looked at as a matter of urgency.’
In Bristol yesterday a group armed with ropes and tools dragged down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in a ‘premeditated’ act of criminal damage and were then allowed to roll it to the city’s dock and hurl it into the water.
Superintendent Andy Bennett, who was in charge in the city yesterday, said he had ‘no regrets’ about not intervening as activists dragged the statue down – but conceded that officers were ’duty-bound’ to investigate. He said: ‘As a police officer, I don’t get to choose which laws I uphold and which I don’t. We are duty-bound to investigate this. We know and have identified 17 main offenders in terms of tearing it down and an investigation is underway.’
Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Andy Marsh has this aftenoon backed the decision and said that had his officers intervened to arrest those responsible there would have been a ‘very violent confrontation’.
‘To arrest suspects would likely to lead to injuries to suspects, injuries to officers, and people who were not involved in damaging property being thrown into a very violent confrontation with the police that could have had serious ramifications for the city of Bristol and beyond,’ Mr Marsh said.
‘Can you imagine scenes of police in Bristol fighting with protesters who were damaging the statue of a man who is reputed to have gathered much of his fortune through the slave trade?
‘I think there would have been very serious implications and whilst I certainly do not condone crime or damage of any sort, I fully support the actions of my officers.
‘They responded with common sense, sound judgment and in the best interest of public safety.’
The chairman of the Police Federation, which represents all officers in England and Wales, has criticised Avon and Somerset Police for its decision not to intervene in a protest in Bristol where a statue of a slave trader was torn down.
John Apter told BBC Breakfast: ‘To have no police presence there I think sent quite a negative message. I am a police officer so I don’t support this lawlessness we saw where this statue was ripped down and rolled down the street and pushed into the river because that is not how we do things’.
In London 22 officers were injured over the weekend on top of 13 last week after being pelted with objects on Whitehall.
One activist clambered onto The Cenotaph, the war monument dedicated to the millions of lives lost during the First World War, and set fire to the Union Jack flag, while another gang defaced the monument to Winston Churchill in Westminster and daubed ‘was a racist’ on its plinth.
Police officers were shown being chased down streets and across bridges by protesters throwing bottles and rocks.
One Met Police riot unit tackling the violence tweeted a picture of a boulder thrown at them last night and said: ‘No it’s not an asteroid. It’s one of the many things we had thrown at us last night between Parliament Square and Elephant and Castle. Multiple officers injured from our line alone. Unacceptable’.
As police unions told MailOnline London Mayor Sadiq Khan must close down the city and ban any further Black Lives Matter protests, it also emerged:
- Policing minister Kit Malthouse said there would need to be a ‘post-mortem’ into how the anti-racism protests across the weekend were enforced – but said it was not practical to arrest all those who took part for breaking coronavirus-related restrictions;
- Met Police Chief Cressida Dick says she is ‘depressed’ by the violence and said: ‘The violent criminality we saw is disgraceful and will have been frightening’
- Bristol’s Mayor Marvin Rees says he is in ‘no rush’ to fish out the Edward Colston statue and says when it is pulled from the dock it will probably go to a museum rather than be put back;
- Sir Keir Starmer has said the toppling of a slave trader statue during Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol was ‘completely wrong’ – but adds the statue should have been removed some time ago;
When asked whether police should have looked to have stopped the Colston statute from being toppled in Bristol, Kit Malthouse told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I know if they (police) possibly can prevent crime taking place by intervening in a public order situation they will, but obviously it is a difficult situation for frontline commanders and no doubt there will be a post-mortem, if you like, of the public order situation in Bristol, and indeed elsewhere in the country, to make sure lessons can be learned.’
People celebrate in the Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square yesterday – the day it was defaced. It is not not known if these two men were involved
Protesters tied ropes around the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol city centre, before tearing it to the ground on Sunday
Another suspect is led away by police on Vauxhall Bridge – one of around 60 arrests in London since protests began last Wednse
Dozens of police officers have now been injured in the attacks on them in the past five days. Many have questioned why they are not all in riot gear
BBC blasted for headline saying Black Lives Matter protests in London were ‘largely peaceful’
The BBC were last night blasted for labelling Black Lives Matter protests in London as ‘largely peaceful’ after 27 police officers were injured – including one officer who was pictured bleeding from the head.
Violent scenes showed police officers injured on the streets and others being pelted by objects as they ran for safety as a peaceful anti-racism demonstration turned violent yesterday.
Metropolitan Police chiefs say 27 police officers were injured, 14 alone on Saturday, and 13 across last week, while a further eight were confirmed to have been injured last night – bringing the total to 35 in London since protests began.
One scene showing police being chased by protesters as they fled a barrage of objects thrown at them has been described as ‘despicable’ by the Met Police Federation – which represents rank-and-file officers.
But criticism was turned on the BBC last night after the publicly-funded news organisation headlined one of its online pieces about the protests: ’27 police officers injured during largely peaceful protests anti-racism protests in London’.
It was later changed to: ‘George Floyd: London anti-racism protests leave 27 officers hurt’.
Among the critics of the original headline were former UKIP leader and now Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage, who said on Twitter: ‘Typical of the BBC, this is why the public are turning away from them.’
Former MEP Patrick O’Flynn said: ‘How can an event that has left 27 police officers injured merit the description ‘largely peaceful’.’
But Mr Malthouse indicated that it would not have been practical to arrest all those who took part for breaking coronavirus-related restrictions.
He added: ‘We did say right at the start that this was against the regulations.
‘But obviously the reality was that people were going to come anyway. Other than arresting whatever it was – 15,000 people in London and many more elsewhere – managing the protest was I think the best call given the strength of feeling that was running.’
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, called for tube stations in central London to be shut and Hyde Park and Whitehall – the areas targeted by protesters last week – to be closed off to the public.
The draconian measures, he said, will also help stop tens of thousands of people swarming into the city ignoring social distancing regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Marsh’s comments come after violent clashes over the weekend saw a female mounted officer suffer a broken collarbone, cracked ribs and a collapsed lung after she came off her horse when the animal was spooked by flares and other missiles hurled by protesters.
Officers were left bruised and bloodied after being pelted with bottles and road signs and hit with sticks and metal poles by yobs who also vandalised the Cenotaph and statue to Sir Winston Churchill outside Parliament. A total of 41 arrests were made over the weekend.
With fears over further trouble this weekend – as right-wing activist Tommy Robinson pledged to travel to London on Saturday to join football fans in protecting the capital’s monuments – Mr Marsh told MailOnline: ‘These protests have to stop now.
‘We need to be more robust in terms of policing and we need to stop this happening. We know about it, we’ve got the intelligence. The Mayor Sadiq Khan now needs to come out and say ‘I’m not having this in my city’.
‘We are in the middle of a pandemic here. And we allow this to take place, even though these protests are increasingly being hijacked by those intent on confrontation with the police.
‘We shouldn’t have allowed it, we should have shut the tubes, shut Hyde Park and shut Whitehall.
A police officer sits on the ground and receives medical attention after demonstrations became violent during a Black Lives Matter protest in London yesterday
Another suspect is taken into custody – it appears there have been no charges in relation to the disorder yet
A council worker removes graffiti from the statue of Sir Winston Churchill at Parliament Square
Graffiti was also removed from the plinth of Abraham Lincoln, overlooking Parliament outside the Supreme Court
A poster hangs from the statue of the 18th Century philosopher David Hume on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, as protesters target other statues
The remains of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol which was pulled down by Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday
The Harbour Master checks the depth of the area of water where the statue of Edward Colston was dumped – but the Mayor of Bristol says he’s in no rush to fish it out
‘People should be allowed to protest, I’ve got no problem with that, it’s the DNA within us as Brits that we protest. But in the middle of this pandemic? No.
Bristol mayor says Colston statue WILL be fished out of docks – but says it should be put in a museum
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said the statue was still underwater but confirmed it would be removed at some point and should be put in a museum.
Around 10,000 people took part in the protest on Sunday, which was praised by the force for being ‘peaceful and respectful’.
Marvin Rees, the elected Labour Mayor of Bristol, praised the police’s handling of the event as ‘intelligent and nuanced’.
Mr Rees said he could not condone the damage and was also concerned about the implications of a mass gathering in terms of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I’m the mixed race child of a Welsh-English white woman and a black Jamaican father,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
‘One of my ancestors would have been taken on a ship from Africa to the Caribbean.
‘That statue is an affront to me and there’s a plaque on it as well that describes him as a ‘wise and virtuous son’, so that’s a double insult.
‘It’s not something that I as a Bristolian would have looked on with pride and it had been a point of debate in the city.’
Mr Rees said Bristol only started to really discuss its relationship with slavery in a ‘meaningful way’ about 20 years ago and that conversation would now ‘go up a few gears’.
‘We have a statue up to someone who made his money buying and selling people,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
‘That statue is now underwater, which is a piece of poetic and historical irony because, undoubtedly, people would have been thrown off the sides of the ships during the journey themselves and there will be many African bodies on the bottom of the water.’
Mr Rees said the statue would be pulled out of the harbour ‘at some point’ and placed in a museum.
Placards from the Black Lives Matter march, which were laid around the plinth where the statue had stood, have also been collected and will be put on display.
‘Let’s get this dealt with, let’s make sure we’re all safe in relation to Covid 19 because all lives matter, and then if you want to protest do what you want to do.
‘But at the moment this is just selfish. It’s not necessary. My colleagues have no choice whatsoever, they have to be there and I thought they did an incredible job over the weekend.
‘The provocation was quite high to which they didn’t react to. They took the abuse that was thrown at them. I don’t know why they’re taking this sort of abuse on the back of something that took place 5000 miles away but this is where we are. I thought they did a sterling job without fear or favour.
‘The problem is now that I think people have cottoned onto the fact they can now get away with coming out onto the streets, whereas they couldn’t when they were locked up at home for ten weeks.
‘But the legislation is that not more than six people can gather. Is it two sets of rules? This is just ridiculous and it’s putting all my colleagues at risk and I don’t want my colleagues to be put at risk.’
The worst of the trouble erupted outside Downing Street on Saturday evening after a largely peaceful protest over the death of African-American George Floyd, who died in U.S police custody two weeks ago.
Missiles, including several flares, were hurled over security gates guarding the entrance to the Prime Minister’s official residence by a crowd who had earlier chanted ‘Boris Johnson’s a racist’.
The violence prompted officers in riot gear to intervene followed by the mounted division.
In the chaos that ensued, a mounted came off her horse after colliding into traffic lights as protesters threw fireworks, bangers, bottles and at one point even a Boris Bike.
Dramatic footage showed a riderless horse bolting back down Whitehall, colliding with an innocent demonstrator as it do so.
The injured officer was pictured lying motionless and unconscious on the floor before she was dragged away by her colleagues. She is now stable in hospital.
Mr Marsh praised the officer and said: ‘She’s a hero because, like my other colleagues, she put herself on the line for a protest that was unlawful, shouldn’t have taken place and, by its very nature, could have caused thousands more deaths by being held in the middle of a pandemic.
‘The officer is currently stable in hospital but serious injuries have been sustained, a broken collarbone, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Not life-threatening but it will take quite a while to recover, three to four months I’d imagine.
‘They are not nice injuries. Anyone who’s had a broken collarbone will know that it’s a horrible injury because it’s one of those that’s very difficult to heal. Likewise broken ribs and a collapsed lung are also horrible because there isn’t anything you can prescribe for them.
‘She will be alright but it’s going to take a bit of time.’
Warehouse worker tells how he joined four Army cadet volunteers to scrub off ‘Churchill was a racist’ graffiti
A group of youong men of remove graffiti from a statue of Winston Churchill at Parliament Square in London this morning
A group of volunteers including four Army cadets cleaned up a memorial to Winston Churchill in London this morning after it was defaced by activists during yesterday’s violent Black Lives Matter protests.
The men scrubbed graffiti off the statue one day after the phrase ‘was racist’ was added in spray paint by protesters below the wartime leader’s name, leaving the monument reading: ‘Churchill was a racist’.
A fifth man, warehouse worker called Max, 25, who had just finished a night shift and went to Saturday’s protests, also cleaned up, telling MailOnline he went there because it ‘just felt like it was the right thing to do.’
The volunteers, who brought their own cleaning products, only stopped and left when a professional cleaner – remarkably called Winston – also turned up this morning and said he had been asked to do the job professionally.
It came as the clean-up also began in Bristol as council crews removed BLM placards and used chemicals and spray to clean graffit off the plinth from which the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down yesterday.
Speaking to MailOnline today, Max said: ‘For me it was a decision I made last night. I worked during a long night shift and I received the news that the statue was being defaced. I just felt like it was the right thing to do.
‘It was completely independent, I thought to myself I’d be the only one there. I didn’t mean to antagonise or upset anyone to do it. When I got there I was pleased to see four young Army cadets already cleaning the statue.
‘I did actually attend the Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday in support of the movement. I feel strongly to show solidarity. I understand the actions that carried on late into last night were that of a minority.
‘But I will not have war memorials defaced. The violence and to see the anger and hatred towards the police was very, very hard to watch for me. It came to standing up for what’s right.’
Max added: ‘We brought our own cleaning products and they weren’t really up to the job. We only left because remarkably a gentleman called Winston asked us to stop because he’d been asked to do the job professionally.’
Just 24-hours after the mayhem in Westminster another Black Lives Matter protest took place in London yesterday.
Thousands gathered outside the American Embassy, just south of the River Thames in Nine Elms, before heading back into Westminster, where further clashes with police took place.
One officer was seen with blood pouring down his head after being hit by a traffic cone while mobile phone footage showed other officers being forced to run from a baying bottle-throwing mob.
A dispersal order was enforced in Westminster until 6am this morning as riot police battled into the night to move a group of about 50 violent protesters on.
Earlier in the day, Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol had toppled a bronze statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston and rolled it into the harbour.
The Prime Minister condemned the trouble in both cities.
In a statement he said the BLM protests were ‘subverted by thuggery’ and that the violence was a ‘betrayal’ of their cause.
And last night English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson blasted the ‘Soft-handed’ police approach for failing to protect the Cenotaph and the Sir Winston Churchill statue.
He told his followers on social media that he would be heading into London on Saturday, adding: ‘I cannot believe what’s come of our capital city.
‘Attack that statue like you did in Bristol today and think there’s not going to be a British public there to confront you about it, you’re wrong.
‘You watch next Saturday how many people turn up.’
A group called the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, made up of football fans from around Britain, has pledged to form a protective ring around London’s war memorials and statues to prevent them from being damaged in protests.
The clean-up began in Bristol today as council teams removed BLM placards and used chemicals to clean off graffiti defacing the plinth that held the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, and another of Winston Churchill in London.
On the Colston statue, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said it will be fished out ‘at some point’ and it is ‘highly likely’ to end up in one of the city’s museums – with a debate set to be held over what should replace it on the plinth.
Speaking about the general public disorder, Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky News: ‘I think that is utterly disgraceful and that speaks to the acts of public disorder that actually have now become a distraction from the cause in which people are actually protesting about and trying to empathise and sympathise with.
‘That is completely an unacceptable act and that speaks to the vandalism – again as we saw (on Saturday) in London – but sheer vandalism and disorder completely is unacceptable. And it’s right the police follow up on that and make sure that justice is taken with those individuals responsible for such disorderly and lawless behaviour.’
The shocking images come as global demonstrations intensify after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck in Minneapolis on May 25 for nine minutes.
Demonstrators flouted social distancing rules yesterday to flood the streets around the US Embassy in London before marching on Westminster, protesting against racial injustice and police brutality.
While the majority of the protests remained peaceful, violence erupted yet again, with images showing police and demonstrators suffering injuries during the melee which led to 12 arrests and eight officers being injured.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed the majority of the arrests had been made for public order offences and one was for criminal damage following the incident at the Cenotaph.
Also yesterday, images showed Black Lives Matter protesters tearing down a statue of 17th century slave trader and philanthropist Edward Colston in Bristol and dumping it in the harbour.
Footage showed demonstrators, packed closely together – despite social distancing guidelines, heaving the metal monument down with ropes before cheering and dancing around it, with many placing their knees on the fallen statue as it lay on the ground – in a nod to the death of Mr Floyd.
Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, told BBC Radio Bristol today: ‘It’s still underwater. At some point it will (be fished out) but we’ve a number of priorities in the city at the moment, not least trying to face up to an £80million gap in our budget that we’ve been left with by national Government not funding us adequately for Covid.’
He added: ‘I think that there’s a really incredible opportunity to talk about ourselves and to make a decision about what we think should go on a plinth in the city to tell us about who we are, not just who we are but who we want to be and to really use that as a place to celebrate something about ourselves, the best of ourselves.
‘What I would look forward to is having that city discussion. In the meantime it’s highly likely that the Colston statue will end up in one of our museums.’
But Government minister for crime and policing Kit Malthouse told BBC Breakfast: ‘A crime was committed, criminal damage was committed, there should be evidence gathered and a prosecution should follow.’
‘There is an elected mayor of Bristol, there is a council in Bristol and it is via those democratic means that we will resolve these issues in this country – not by people showing up with ropes and tools and committing criminal damage. We have to have a sense of order and democracy – that is how we sort things out and that is what should have happened.’
But Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I do absolutely support protest in the incident of the Colston statue. This is a man who transported over 80,000 African men women and children. It’s shameful, shameful – we’re actually discussing whether he should have a statue. People have been calling for that statue to come down in Bristol for many years. There may be a role for statues such as this in museums where there is proper context where they can think about their contribution to society as well as what they got wrong.’
A firework is set off as clashes take place between police officers and Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Whitehall, London