Boris Johnson blasts 'thuggery' at UK's Black Lives Matter protests

Boris says Black Lives Matter protests have been ‘subverted by thugs’ after demonstrator tried to BURN Cenotaph’s Union flag, a crowd toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and eight police are hurt

  • Some Black Lives Matter protesters were seen clashing with police officers today in Whitehall, London
  • Police officers injured, fireworks launched in busy streets and some demonstrators were arrested in rally
  • A memorial statue dedicated to former Prime Minister Winston Churchill was defaced during the protests
  • Demonstrators pulled down statue of 17th century slave trader in Bristol which is now destined for a museum
  • Shocking scenes come as global demonstrations continue to intensify after killing of George Floyd in US

The Prime Minister has condemned ‘thuggery’ at Black Lives Matter protests in Britain following a day of chaos after activists chased police through London and pulled down a statue of a 17th century slave trader in Bristol.

Boris Johnson called the demonstrations a ‘betrayal of the cause they purport to serve’ following violent scenes that left police officers bleeding on the streets and others being pelted with objects as they ran for cover.

After thousands of people descended upon Whitehall in London to take part, Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘People have a right to protest peacefully and while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police.

‘These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery – and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve. Those responsible will be held to account.’

Elsewhere, one activist clambered onto The Cenotaph, the war monument designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens and dedicated to the millions of lives lost during the First World War, and set fire to the Union Jack flag. 

The clean-up began 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. 

As demonstrations swept the UK following the death of George Floyd in the US, police stood by, refusing to intervene in what the Home Secretary Priti Patel described as ‘disgraceful vandalism’ by a ‘thuggish minority’. 

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. 

Mr Rees 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.’


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

A police officer sits on the ground and receives medical attention after demonstrations became violent during a Black Lives Matter protest in London yesterday

A firework is set off as clashes take place between police officers and Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Whitehall, London  

A protestor is pulled away as peaceful demonstrations in the capital turn violent in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the U.S.

Police carrying batons and wearing protective helmets clash with demonstrators during the ongoing Black Lives Matter protest 

A demonstrator climbs onto The Cenotaph in Whitehall as a peaceful protest descends into chaos in London

Officers carrying protective shields stand guard after a flare hits the pavement during the anti-racism rally in London

Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally yesterday

Ms Patel told the Mail she was ‘sickened’ by Mr Floyd’s death on May 25 and said that ‘justice and accountability must follow’.

But she added: ‘There are no excuses for the unlawful behaviour and disorder we have witnessed throughout the weekend including the disgraceful vandalism we saw in Bristol and the utterly appalling abuse of our police officers.’

Commenting on the desecration of Churchill’s statue, she added: ‘Winston Churchill is one of the greatest Britons who ever lived. We have him to thank for our very freedom to protest. The vandals who did this are repulsive criminals who I want to see brought to justice immediately.’

Police officers had suffered ‘serious injuries’ inflicted by ‘a small minority of violent people using the guise of peaceful protest to pursue reckless lawlessness,’ she said. She added: ‘I know that the British public will be as appalled as I am at those scenes.’

Outside Downing Street some demonstrators were seen turning violent as police officers tried to control the mass chaos and form a barricade with their riot shields. 

A group of members of the public remove graffiti from the statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill today

A person cleans graffiti from the statue of Winston Churchill at Parliament Square in London this morning

Yesteday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the anti-racism demonstrations had been ‘subverted by thuggery’ following a day of protests across the UK.

He tweeted: ‘People have a right to protest peacefully & while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police. 

‘These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery – and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve. Those responsible will be held to account.’    

Hours after the incident that saw the statue of Edward Colston pulled down in Bristol, the M6 in the Midlands was closed as Black Lives Matter protesters walked down the carriageway.

A video posted on social media showed crowds of people covering the motorway at the Exhall interchange near Coventry as traffic remained stationary on the other side.

Flares are launched into the air as police and demonstrators clash during Black Lives Matter protest in the nation’s capital

Members of the police force attempt to disperse the crowds as a demonstrator climbs onto the national war monument in London

One eyewitness claimed there were around 100 people who were heard chanting ‘Black Lives Matter’ as they took part in the demonstrations.

Many drivers on the motorway were pictured emerging from their cars to watch the protests, which began at around 5pm, and the southbound carriageway was closed for around two hours. 

Yesterday, spokesperson for the protests in London, Superintendent Jo Edwards, said: ‘Regrettably officers were faced with further scenes of violence and disorder following a day of predominantly peaceful protest throughout the capital.

‘This is a hugely impassioned movement and we understand the public’s desire to have their voices heard – however it is not right that this passion has turned into violent attacks on officers.

‘I would like to thank our officers, and those from the City of London Police and British Transport Police for their professionalism in the face of entirely unacceptable behaviour.

‘Overnight our policing operation will continue and I would urge demonstrators thinking of returning to stay at home. The threat of Coronavirus remains very real, and we need you to protect yourselves, your friends and your family.’

As the chaos continued, one protester, who took part in defacing the statue of the former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was heard on camera saying: ‘Tagged up Churchill as a racist on the statue of Churchill because he is a confirmed racist. 

‘He didn’t fight the Nazis for the commonwealth or for anything else or for any personal freedoms. He fought the Nazis purely to protect the commonwealth against the invasion by foreign forces. He didn’t do it for black people or people of colour. He did it purely for colonialism.

‘People will be angry but at the end of the day I’m angry that for many years we’ve been oppressed. You can’t enslave people, have the largest colonial empire ever in history and they try and come like ”yeah let’s be peaceful” it don’t work like that.’ 

Demonstrators clash with police carrying protective shields after thousands took to the streets of London during the anti-racism rally 

A group of police officers form a barrier in front of protesters in Whitehall after a Black Lives Matter protest in London became violent

A protester wearing a black coat and mask stands in front of a Winston Churchill statue which has been defaced in Parliament Square 

People try to clean the graffiti on a Winston Churchill memorial statue in Parliament Square after some demonstrators defaced the monument

A group of people gather at the memorial site in an attempt to clean the graffiti left by some demonstrators at the rally

A protester wearing a face covering holds a blue flare into the air as demonstrations turn to chaos amid the Black Lives Matter march

Police form a line against protestors as demonstrations descend into chaos following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Some demonstrators hurl objects at police in Parliament Square, London, as a part of the Black Lives Matter protest became violent

In Parliament Square, police officers formed a line against some demonstrators as the anti- racism rally descended into chaos

Police wearing protective shields clash with protesters during the Black Lives Matter protest in Westminster, London

A group of police officers detain a protester in central London as demonstrations descend into chaos and some are injured

One demonstrator is held on the ground by a group of officers during the Black Lives Matter rally in central London

A group of people run away from the scene after some protesters become violent during the Black Lives Matter demonstration

Police and protesters clash once again as a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest turns violent in Whitehall, London

Police officers form a line and prevent demonstrators from entering King Charles Street in London as protests continue to take place 


A protester (left and right) is restrained by police before being taken away from the scenes in hand-cuffs as the demonstrations continue

Protesters and police face each other during the Black Lives Matter protest in London just a day after it was revealed 14 officers had been left injured during the demonstrations in the city yesterday

A person wearing a black hooded jumper and a balaclava is restrained by police and escorted away from the violent scenes

One demonstrator is restrained by two police officers near Westminster tube station as the ongoing protests turn violent

Protests and police clash near The Cenotaph in London as the anti-racism rally breaks into chaos and some are left injured

Police stretch out their arms and urge protesters to move back amid the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in London

A demonstrator wearing a face mask is  detained by police officers during the Black Lives Matter protest in London

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that while people had a right to protest the anti-racism demonstrations had been ‘subverted by thuggery’ 

The nationwide scenes come just a day after Met Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, revealed that 14 police officers had been hurt during anti-racism protests in London yesterday evening which saw a police officer injured after falling off her horse. 

In a statement yesterday the police chief said: ‘I am deeply saddened and depressed that a minority of protesters became violent towards officers in central London yesterday evening. 

‘This led to 14 officers being injured, in addition to 13 hurt in earlier protests this week.

‘We have made a number of arrests and justice will follow. I know many who were seeking to make their voices heard will be as appalled as I am by those scenes. 

‘I would urge protesters to please find another way to make your views heard which does not involve coming out on the streets of London, risking yourself, your families and officers as we continue to face [the deadly coronavirus].’ 

Following the destruction of the statue in Bristol, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid condemned protesters’ decision to force it down, declaring on Twitter: ‘This is not OK’. 

Speaking after the demonstration, superintendent Andy Bennett vowed there would be an investigation into the ‘act of criminal damage,’ near Bristol Harbourside, where slave ships once docked centuries ago. 

Meanwhile Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky News: ‘I think that is utterly disgraceful. That speaks to the acts of public disorder that actually have become a distraction from the cause that people are actually protesting. 

A demonstrator lights a flare and holds it in the air as the anti-racism protests continued in Parliament Square  

Police officers try to push back protesters during the anti-racism rally in London as protests continue across the nation

Barriers are left scattered on the road after police and demonstrators clash in Victoria Street during the anti-racism rally

A group of protesters clash members of the police force in London as the rally takes a violent turn in certain regions across the UK

A police officer and a group of demonstrators clash at King Charles Street archway in London as protests continue across the country

The police force wear protective armour and hold their shields as they are deployed to the scene in London amid the demonstrations

Some protesters stand in front of police officers in Parliament Square, London, as the ant-racism rally continues across the country

Officers in protective gear form a barricade against demonstrators in London after the anti-racism rally saw scenes of violence

Officers stand guard as demonstrators continue in Whitehall, London, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month

Police form a barrier against some of the protesters as the peaceful protest once agin turns violent in Whitehall, London

Clashes begin to take place between police and demonstrators as the Black Lives Matter protest turns violent

Hundreds of protesters descended upon Whitehall in London to demand justice for the police killing of George Floyd and show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Protesters wave signs showing their support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in America

Police congregate on Westminster Bridge as thousands flood the streets of London during a Black Lives Matter protest

‘Sheer vandalism and disorder is completely unacceptable and its right the police follow up on that and make sure justice is undertaken.’  

The scenes come as demonstrations continue to increase around the world after George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died after police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck in Minneapolis on May 25 for nine minutes.

Following the death of George Floyd, three other officers who were also present at the scene, Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.  

Earlier yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is ‘undoubtedly a risk’ that there will be an increase in Covid-19 cases following the protests, as he urged people not to gather in groups of more than six people.

Mr Hancock said he supported the activists’ arguments, but said: ‘Please don’t gather in groups of more than six people because there is also a pandemic that we must address and control.’ 

Protesters tied ropes around the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol city centre, before tearing it to the ground on Sunday 

Demonstrators in Bristol were heard laughing and cheering as the statue of the slave trader was toppled by protesters into the harbour

Just hours later the M6 was forced to close closed in the Midlands as Black Lives Matter protesters walked down the carriageway

A protester wearing a face covering joins other demonstrators and walks along the M6 during a Black Lives Matter rally earlier


Many drovers on the motorway emerged from their cars as the protesters walked down the carriageway and forced the motorway to come to a standstill

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