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Home Secretary Priti Patel: I wouldn't take the knee

12 February 2021, 09:32 | Updated: 12 February 2021, 10:53

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Home Secretary Priti Patel has told LBC she does not support taking the knee for Black Lives Matter protests.

Speaking on LBC's Call the Cabinet with Nick Ferrari on Friday, she was asked directly whether or not she would 'take the knee' in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations.

"No I would not, I would not have at the time either. There are other ways in which people can express their opinions," Ms Patel said.

"Protesting in the way which people did last summer was not the right way at all."

The secretary of state called last summer's BLM protests "quite a moment" that put police officers "under a great deal of pressure".

She also told LBC that she did not support the "dreadful" demonstrations that were associated with the organisation.

Read more: Key moments from a weekend of BLM protests last summer

Watch AGAIN: Call the Cabinet with Home Secretary Priti Patel

Thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets of London last summer
Thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets of London last summer. Picture: LBC / Matthew Thompson
A flare was thrown toward a line of mounted officers over a weekend of BLM protests in June
A flare was thrown toward a line of mounted officers over a weekend of BLM protests in June. Picture: LBC / Rachael Venables

"We saw statues being brought down and some councils making, quite frankly, a stance around statues and street names," Ms Patel said.

"There are other ways in which those discussions can take place and, also, quite frankly I didn't support that attempt to re-write history. I felt that that was wrong."

Asked one more time whether she agreed with taking the knee at all, the home secretary replied bluntly: "No."

Last summer, thousands of protesters took to cities across the country in support of BLM.

Although many demonstrations were peaceful, some turned violent as demonstrators clashed with the police.

In Bristol, anti-racism protesters tore down a controversial statue of slave trader Edward Colston at the height of the movement in June.

Read more: Mounted police clash with BLM protesters in London

Read more: BLM protest tactics were 'hooliganism and thuggery' - Priti Patel

Calls were soon made to topple other monuments around the UK, with some being removed or boarded up for their safety.

The protests were sparked after 46-year-old African-American George Floyd was killed by police officers - who knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds - in the US while under arrest on 25 May.

His death led to demonstrations and riots across the world in support of the BLM movement.

In London, mounted police clashed with protesters on 6 June, with missiles thrown at officers as they mounted a charge down Whitehall.

Dozens of arrests were made across the country in protests described as “hooliganism and thuggery” by Ms Patel in October.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, she said: "This government will always defend the right to protest. That right is a fundamental pillar of our democracy, but the hooliganism and thuggery we have seen is not. It is indefensible.

“There is no excuse for pelting flares at brave police officers. There is no excuse for throwing bikes at police horses. There is no excuse for disrespecting the Cenotaph or vandalising the statue of Sir Winston Churchill, one of the greatest protectors of our freedoms who has ever lived.”

The Home Secretary issued a similarly stinging rebuke in June when she said: “There is no excuse for pelting flares at brave officers, throwing bikes at police horses, attempting to disrespect the Cenotaph or vandalising the statue of Winston Churchill, one of the greatest protectors of our freedoms who has ever lived.”

BLM's movement has since led to sports stars across the globe taking the knee prior to games to show their opposition to racism.

During the interview with LBC on Friday, Ms Patel also refused to say she had confidence in Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

Asked five times whether she backed the commissioner, the home secretary said she "does a lot of great work" but there are "questions" about her.

Ms Dick is facing criticism over the Met's failed VIP child sex abuse investigation, which she established more than six years ago.

“I work with the Commissioner," the secretary of state said, "the Commissioner does a lot of great work and she oversees the largest police force in the country.

“There are still questions, rightly so, some questions have been put to me today actually, very publicly in newspapers, and it’s right that I also look at these questions.”

In a statement released immediately after Call the Cabinet, a Home Office spokesman said: "As the Home Secretary said, she works with Cressida Dick every day. The Home Secretary has full confidence in her to do her job."

You can watch LBC's Call the Cabinet with Home Secretary Priti Patel in full below.