Sadiq Khan urges Londoners not to join protests amid threat of Covid-19 and far-right counter protests

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Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan has urged Londoners not to attend protests over the weekend, due to counter-demonstrations from far-right groups and fears of social distancing rules being ignored.

The Mayor of London made a direct appeal to those living in the capital and said the public should "stay home" and find another way to "make your voice heard".

In a video posted on Twitter, he said Londoners should not attend mass gatherings to help stop the spread of Covid-19. He also warned that far-right groups are planning to hold counter-protests on Saturday, meaning there is a "high" risk of disorder.

His comments come as police said thousands of people from Black Lives Matter, far-right groups and left-wing groups are planning on holding marches over the weekend.

Mr Khan said he stands with the millions of people around the world who are protesting against racial inequality, but added: "I'm making a direct appeal to Londoners not to take to the streets to protest this weekend.

"For yourselves, for your family members, who may be vulnerable to Covid-19, and for the wider cause: stay home and find a safe way to make your voice heard."

The mayor urged Londoners to stay a home (Sadiq Khan)
The mayor urged Londoners to stay a home (Sadiq Khan)

He continued: "We know that extreme far-right groups who openly advocate hatred and division are planning counter-protests. This means that the risk of disorder is high.

"Be in no doubt these counter-protests are aimed at provoking violence. Their only goal is to distract from and hijack this important issue.

"That's why staying home and ignoring them is the best response this weekend."

Mr Khan has been criticised by Home Secretary Priti Patel for boarding up statues, including a Winston Churchill monument, ahead of the march.

She strongly criticised the move – accusing the mayor of failing to stand up to “thuggery” and demanding Britain’s “national hero” was set free.

However Mr 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 (Ms 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.”

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.

Met Police said they have imposed conditions upon several groups intending to protest on Saturday.

The force primary position regarding any gatherings on June 13 is that participation in those protests will be in breach of Regulation 7 Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.

Commander Bas Javid said: “I absolutely understand why people want to make their voices heard – there is a really strong depth of feeling out in the communities, but the Government direction is that we remain in a health pandemic and people are asked not to gather in large groups.

"By doing so, you are putting your own safety, and that of your family or friends at risk. We are asking you not to come to London, and let your voices be heard in other ways."

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