Police, protesters clash in London
LONDON – Police were pelted with bottles during confrontations with demonstrators in London, where hundreds gathered despite warnings to avoid protests.
Groups gathered in the centre of the capital, claiming they were protecting statues from anti-racism activists.
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the violence as “thoroughly unacceptable thuggery”.
Some anti-racism demonstrations have also taken place across the United Kingdom, including in central London.
The Met Police had placed restrictions on several groups intending to protest, including having to finish at 5 p.m., following violent scenes last weekend.
However, several groups remained on the streets of central London after the cut-off.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urged demonstrators to “leave now” to prevent further violence and the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the city.
Various groups from around the country, including some far-right activists, said they had come to London to protect symbols of British history.
Hundreds of mostly white men gathered around the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall and the boarded-up statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square.
There were a number of clashes with police in riot gear as crowds – chanting “England” and raising their arms – surged towards lines of officers.
Some protesters managed to break metal barriers around the Cenotaph on Whitehall while hurling flag poles, a smoke flare and a traffic cone towards police who were striking them back with batons.
Large groups of right-wing protesters then moved to Trafalgar Square, where fireworks were thrown across the crowds.
Police attempted to stop protesters getting to Hyde Park where an anti-racist demonstration, which had largely been peaceful, was taking place.
Organisers from the Black Lives Matter movement had urged people not to join any anti-racism rallies planned for the weekend over fears there could be clashes with far-right groups. One demonstration planned for Saturday in London was brought forward by a day.
Sharing footage of the clashes with police on Twitter, Home Secretary Priti Patel described it as “unacceptable thuggery”.
“Any perpetrators of violence or vandalism should expect to face the full force of the law,” she wrote.
“Violence towards our police officers will not be tolerated.”
The Met Police Federation described it as “unacceptable”, tweeting that its officers “do not come to work to face this level of violence and abuse”. (BBC)