Boris Johnson: UK is not a racist country but discrimination 'continues'

8 June 2020, 16:40

Boris Johnson said on Sunday that protests over the weekend had been 'subverted by thuggery'
Boris Johnson said on Sunday that protests over the weekend had been 'subverted by thuggery'. Picture: PA and LBC
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Boris Johnson doesn't think the UK is a racist country despite admitting that issues of racism and discrimination continue to exist, his spokesman has said.

Number 10 said on Monday that "very significant progress" had been made on tackling the issue and stressed that it would "not be complacent" in efforts to rid racism overall.

But, the spokesman added: "The PM doesn't doubt that there continues to be discrimination and racism, but does not agree that this is a racist country."

The comments come following a full weekend of protests in which thousands of people marched through cities across the country against racism and police brutality.

In Bristol, protesters toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston, before dropping it into the harbour, while in London, mostly peaceful protests saw waves of violence as people threw bottles and other objects at police.

A statue of Winston Churchill - known for wartime leadership in warding off the Nazis, but also his controversial views about other races and cultures - was defaced on Parliament Square.

READ MORE: Members of the public scrub graffiti off Churchill statue - 'Defacing it is one step too far'

READ MORE: Key moments from a weekend of Black Lives Matter protests

Mr Johnson said on Sunday the protests had been "subverted by thuggery" following reports of violence, and said it was a "betrayal of the cause they purport to serve".

Later on Monday, his spokesman added that it was "unacceptable" to topple the statue in Bristol in the manner in which it happened.

He said: "People can campaign for the removal of a statue, but what happened yesterday was a criminal act and when the criminal law is broken that is unacceptable and the police will want to hold to account those responsible."

Labour leader Keir Starmer agreed with the sentiment, saying the statue should have been taken down a long time before, but that it was "completely wrong" for the way it was eventually done.

These recent protests have been triggered in response to the death of an unarmed black man in the US at the hands of white police officer.

Now infamous video of George Floyd's final moments show the 46-year-old lying face down on a street in Minneapolis while the officer, Derek Chauvin, kneels on his neck.

READ MORE: 'History has been made' - Bristolians react to toppling of Edward Colston statue

READ MORE: 36 people arrested in London during Sunday's Black Lives Matter protests

Despite Mr Floyd making repeated pleas that he couldn't breathe, Chauvin remained on his neck for more than eight minutes as the former lost consciousness.

Mr Floyd never recovered - and Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder.

Three other officers have also been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Mr Floyd's death has incensed America - since sparking huge nationwide protests and reviving fierce debate about racial discrimination in the US judicial system.

Similar demonstrations - like those in London - have also been inspired around the world by action in the US.

Mr Johnson's spokesman added on Monday that the police had the government's "full support in tackling any violence, vandalism and disorderly behaviour" after Sunday's protest.

He added: "It is completely unacceptable they were subjected to attacks over the weekend."

A total of 36 people were arrested at the march in London on Sunday, and a further 35 officers were injured.