Far-right protesters in violent clashes with police at London demonstration
Far-right protesters gathering to ‘protect London’s monuments’ have launched attacks on police at a demonstration in the capital.
Football fans, veterans and far-right groups all vowed to ‘defend’ memorials from anti-racism protests this week after Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square was defaced and a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was dragged down in Bristol.
But tensions quickly flared between police and far-right groups on Saturday, with violent brawls breaking out and punches being thrown at officers.
Footage on social media shows police officers and crowds of activists backing away as fireworks were set off in Trafalgar Square.
Smoke bombs, bottles and cans were also forcefully hurled at officers on duty.
A press photographer is said to have suffered a broken nose in a confrontation with some protesters, with the BBC’s Dominic Casciani alleging that ‘anyone who is thought to be media is also being threatened’.
Officers on horseback wearing riot gear pushed demonstrators back from the other end of Parliament Square, near the boarded-up statues of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, at mid-afternoon today.
Advocacy group Hope Not Hate claimed it had become ‘hard to keep up with the number of violent incidents taking place’ in the area.
Black Lives Matter cancelled a planned demonstration in central London on Saturday, warning that ‘many hate groups’ were threatening the safety of those coming.
However, many anti-racism protesters still gathered in London today, with hundreds of counter-protesters seen congregating this morning in order to ‘protect the memorials’.
Britain First leader Paul Golding pictured, along with members of right-wing movement Democratic Football Lads Alliance (FLA) and far-right Islamophobic organisation English Defence League.
Scotland Yard commanders have issued a Section-60 order for today’s central London protests, giving them increased powers to stop and search.
A spokesman said: ‘We have learnt that some people are coming into London to cause harm and are likely to bring weapons with them.’
Black Lives Matter protests went ahead in other parts of the country today, with thousands of activists marching through cities including Belfast, Bristol, Brighton and Glasgow.
Protests against police brutality and racism have erupted all over the UK and across the globe following the death of Mr Floyd, an unarmed father who was filmed lying face-down on the road, begging for air with a white officer’s knee on his neck.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has condemned the scenes in London on Saturday as ‘thoroughly unacceptable thuggery’.
She said: ‘Any perpetrators of violence or vandalism should expect to face the full force of the law.
‘Violence towards our police officers will not be tolerated. Coronavirus remains a threat to us all. Go home to stop the spread of this virus & save lives.’
Metropolitan Police have told those joining today’s demonstrations they must be off the streets by 5pm in an attempt to avoid violent clashes similar to those seen last Saturday and Sunday.
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