LONDON: A hundred people were arrested and 27 people including six police officers injured when patriots defending statues clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters and riot police in London.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) had officially called off their protest on Saturday when war veterans, football supporters and other groups, including far-right Britain First, announced they would be travelling to the capital to defend its statues and war memorials after many had been daubed in graffiti by Black Lives Matter activists last weekend.
Despite being called off, hundreds of Black Live Matter protesters still did turn up and they ended up facing off against the counter-protesters, causing outbreaks of fights and violence all day.
Eleven people were taken to hospital, London Ambulance Service said. Six police officers suffered injuries including facial injuries and bruising.
Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary, said: “A photographer had his nose broken and was verbally attacked. Another photographer was hit as protestors hurled barricades at the police, and reporters had their mobile phones knocked out of their hand whilst they were filming.”
100 people were arrested for offences including violent disorder, assault on police, possession of an offensive weapon, possession of class A drugs and drunk and disorder, the Metropolitan Police said.
The violence erupted early afternoon in Trafalgar Square when some violent counter-protesters pelted bottles, beer cans, smoke bombs and flash grenades at police. Despite police efforts to keep the feuding groups apart in different locations, some BLM troublemakers and counter-protesters spoiling for a fight eventually faced off in the Square where they threw missiles and fireworks at each other and at police. The violence then spilt over to Waterloo Station and Hyde Park.
One person was caught on camera relieving himself next to a memorial dedicated to PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the 2017 Westminster Bridge terrorist attack, the Metropolitan Police Federation said.
“Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with the full force of the law,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
The Cenotaph and statues of Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela had to be boarded up – on the orders of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan – ahead of the protests to protect them.
Some war veterans who travelled to the capital said they were furious at having been described as “extreme right-wingers“ by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. They said they did not take part in any violence.
One veteran said they were there to show respect for Britain’s war memorials and to protect them “from thugs” and “to protect our dignity and respect”. “We are not here to cause trouble. We are here on a peaceful demonstration to prove our loyalty to this country,” he said. “Calling us thugs when we have served our country all these years. Sadiq Khan is an out and out traitor. Many people are dead for serving their country. We are not far-right. We are veterans of the British Army. We serve our Queen and country. We only kneel to the fallen,” he said.
Ministers are planning to push a new Bill through Parliament which will mean that people who desecrate war memorials could face prison sentences of up to 10 years. The new Desecration of War Memorials Bill is due to be presented to the House of Commons on June 23.
Last weekend Black Lives Matter protesters tore down a statue of a slave trader in Bristol and threw it in the river.