London mayor Sadiq Khan defends boarding up Winston Churchill statue ahead of protests

Graffiti on the Winston Churchill statue during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, Westminster, London, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Graffiti on the Winston Churchill statue during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square (Picture: PA)

The London mayor defended his decision to board up a Winston Churchill statue ahead of protests in the capital on Saturday.

Sadiq Khan accused home secretary Priti Patel of political point-scoring after she criticised him.

She accused the mayor of failing to stand up to “thuggery” and demanded Britain’s former leader and “national hero” was set free.

Prime minister Boris Johnson added the boarding up of the monument was “absurd and shameful”.

However, Khan said the decision to protect the statue in Parliament Square – along with the Cenotaph and monuments to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi – was a “wise” precaution.

Following the toppling last weekend of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, he said there were fears the London statues could become a “flashpoint for violence” involving extreme far-right protesters.

“She (Patel) needs to see the intelligence that we have seen that the far right are intending to come to central London,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“One of their justifications for doing so is to protect these statues but also they are intending to remove statues of people like Nelson Mandela, so I think we have done the wise, precautionary thing.

“Rather than seeking to make political points out of this, what I hope is that central government would work with regional government and the police to make sure there isn’t violence, vandalism or disorder, or inadvertently the spreading of the virus.”

Westminster Council street marshals stand next to a protective covering installed overnight surrounds the statue of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, London, Friday, June 12, 2020, following Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the UK over the weekend. The protests were ignited by the death of George Floyd, who died after he was restrained by Minneapolis police on May 25. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
A protective covering surrounds the statue of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square (Picture: PA)
File photo dated 25/09/17 of Sadiq Khan, as he has pleaded with the public to stay at home to keep safe as anti-racism and far-right groups both plan protests in the capital this weekend.
London mayor Sadiq Khan (Picture: PA)

His comments came as police said that Black Lives Matter protesters expected to converge on the capital on Saturday must disperse by 5pm, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s clashes in the capital.

Earlier, Patel said the decision to board up the statue of Churchill – which was previously daubed with graffiti – was a “sad reflection” on Khan.

“We should free Churchill, a hero of our nation, who fought against fascism and racism in this country and Europe. He has given us the freedom to live our lives the way we do today,” she told the Daily Mail.

“We have seen the desecration of war memorials, which is thoroughly unacceptable. Now we’re seeing a national hero being boarded up

“I think this is a sad reflection on the mayor of London because had he stood up for the right thing, had he called out the minority who were subversive in a peaceful protest, had he pulled up the thuggery in the right way, we would not be seeing the boarding up of our national hero.”

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