Boris Johnson says 'racist thuggery has no place on our streets' after clashes in London

13 June 2020, 19:56

A line of riot police and protesters in London today
A line of riot police and protesters in London today. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The Prime Minister has spoken out after violent clashes between protesters and police on the streets of London today.

Boris Johnson wrote online: "Racist thuggery has no place on our streets.

"Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law.

"These marches & protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Any violence against our police is completely unacceptable. No ifs, no buts.

"Today’s protests in London were led by those intent on causing violence and sowing hate for their own ends.

"We must not let them win."

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Six police officers suffered minor injuries in violent clashes as several hundred demonstrators attended a protest organised by groups which claimed they wanted to protect statues such as Winston Churchill from vandalism.

In a smaller protest in Newcastle, 11 people were arrested and a “small number of officers” suffered minor injuries after missiles were thrown. 

Violence erupted in areas near the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square in London, as demonstrators repeatedly assailed officers with foul-mouthed chants and missiles, smoke grenades and flares.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has condemned the "desecration" of Pc Keith Palmer's memorial after a man urinated next to it amid the protest.

A protester was pictured in Parliament Square urinating next to the memorial of Pc Palmer, who was stabbed to death in the 2017 terror attack in Westminster.

Ms Patel branded the act as "appalling and shameful", and likened the protesters' behaviour to "extreme thuggery".

She said: "We have seen a small minority behave in extreme thuggery and violent behaviour today.

"That is simply unacceptable and the individuals that are basically putting the safety of our police officers and the safety of the public at risk will expect to face the full force of the law.

"We have seen some shameful scenes today, including the desecration of Pc Keith Palmer's memorial in Parliament, in Westminster Square, and quite frankly that is shameful, that is absolutely appalling and shameful.

MP Tobias Ellwood, who gave first aid to Pc Palmer as he lay dying after being stabbed to death in the grounds of Parliament by Khalid Masood in 2017, said the image of the man urinating next to the memorial was "abhorrent".

The Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, Ken Marsh, condemned the "disorder and unruliness", and suggested the man pictured urinating next to the memorial should be jailed.

Scotland Yard said that as of 5pm on Saturday, they had arrested five people for offences including violent disorder, assault on police, possession of an offensive weapon, being drunk and disorderly and possession of Class A drugs.

By around 5.30pm, London Ambulance Service said it had treated 15 people for injuries, including two police officers.

Six of these patients, all members of the public, had to be taken to hospital.

The violent scenes in Westminster contrasted with peaceful demonstrations that took place at Hyde Park and Marble Arch by anti-racism protesters in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

On Friday, statues in Parliament Square - including of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi - were boarded up to prevent them being targeted by protesters both from the Black Lives Matter movement and far-right groups.

There were similar gatherings on Saturday in Belfast, Glasgow and Bristol with crowds massing around monuments.

In Brighton, more than 1,000 protesters formed a line along the seafront in a Black Lives Matter demonstration.