Winston Churchill’s statue and the Cenotaph have been boarded up amid fears of violent protests in London this weekend.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan pleaded with the public to stay home amid fears that far-right protestors and anti-racism groups would clash in the capital.
Black Lives Matter organisers have cancelled a protest in London’s Hyde Park on Saturday over fears it would be hijacked by far-right groups after the Democratic Football Lads Alliance called on supporters to travel to London to protect monuments, supported by former EDL leader Tommy Robinson.
A protective box has been erected around the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, while scaffolding and boards were put up around the Cenotaph after the monuments were targeted in protests last weekend.
The PM called Churchill a “hero”, saying that “we can’t censor our past”.
Last weekend saw a small number of demonstrators clash with police in London, and graffiti daubed on the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, while in Bristol a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped in the city’s harbour.
The decision to board up the statues in London has sparked anger.
Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, said that “we need grip” as the news emerged.
The Cenotaph is being boarded up. Our national memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy - and many abuse - today. The statue of the greatest fighter for freedom who saved half Europe and the world - Winston Churchill - is boarded up. We need grip
— Conor Burns (@ConorBurnsUK) June 11, 2020
Khan has said he is “extremely concerned” that further protests in London, particularly by extreme far-right groups which “advocate hatred and division”, could lead to violence and disorder.
Khan said: “It is clear that the majority of the protesters have been peaceful. This moment must be a catalyst for systemic, lasting change to tackle the racism and inequalities that black people still face today, in this country and elsewhere.
“However, I’m extremely concerned that further protests in central London not only risk spreading COVID-19, but could lead to disorder, vandalism and violence.
“Extreme far-right groups who advocate hatred and division are planning counter-protests, which means that the risk of disorder is high.
“Be in no doubt these counter-protests are there to provoke violence, and their only goal is to distract and hijack this important issue.
“Staying home and ignoring them is the best response this weekend.”
BLM LDN said a planned protest in Hyde Park on Saturday was cancelled, although a similar event on Friday was still set to go ahead.
“We want the protests to be a safe space for people to attend however we don’t think it’ll be possible with people like them present,” an Instagram post said.
Earlier this week, Downing Street said police must make their own decisions on whether to intervene if anti-racism protesters try to pull down further statues.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is said to have have had a “firm” discussion with Avon and Somerset Police’s chief constable over the decision to allow protesters to pull down the monument to Edward Colston.
Boris Johnson told his Cabinet on Tuesday that protesters who break social distancing or attack public property or police “will face the full force of the law”.
Reports have also suggested that violent protesters could be jailed within 24 hours after Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and the Home Secretary drew up plans based on the response to the 2011 London riots.
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