Priti Patel: Black Lives Matter protest tactics were 'hooliganism and thuggery'

4 October 2020, 17:38 | Updated: 4 October 2020, 17:53

People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in central London
Thousands took to the streets of London to protest in June. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Home Secretary Priti Patel has described the tactics of Black Lives Matter protests over the summer as “hooliganism and thuggery”, in a speech at the Conservative Party conference.

Although the vast majority of protesters protests were peaceful, videos posted on social media showed police in Westminster having objects hurled at them by anti-racist campaigners earlier this year.

Ms Patel 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.”

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Addressing the virtual conference, Ms Patel referenced the Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol, where protestors tore down a statue of Edward Colston, saying: “It is not acceptable for mobs to tear down statues and cause criminal damage across our streets.”

The Home Secretary added that the police have the "backing of our party, our Government and our Prime Minister" in their efforts to patrol demonstrations.

“It is not acceptable for thugs to assault our police officers, just for doing their job. As our police walk the line of duty, I want every one of them to know, I have their back.

“We work closely, day in, day out with Chief Constables, policing bodies and the Police Federation to ensure that they have the tools, support and the powers they need.”

She said the Government had already agreed to double the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency workers and confirmed she was working with chief constables to ensure their officers “have the tools, support and the powers they need” to police such incidents.

Ms Patel also paid tribute to “hero” Pc Andrew Harper, who died when he became entangled in a tow rope as he tried to stop quad bike thieves, and Sergeant Matt Ratana, who was shot as he prepared to search a suspect who was handcuffed.

She vowed to work with Pc Harper’s widow, Lissie Harper, to “ensure anyone who kills an emergency worker gets the sentence they deserve”.