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Assaults on police officers at UK anti-racism rally ‘shocking’, Met Police chief says

The police force said 29 people were arrested after tensions escalated yesterday.

Mounted police in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest.
Mounted police in Whitehall following a Black Lives Matter protest.
Image: PA Images

THE METROPOLITAN POLICE Commissioner has said assaults on officers at an anti-racism rally were “shocking and completely unacceptable” as more demonstrations are planned across the UK today.

Police said the majority of demonstrators were peaceful and left central London after the protest yesterday, but a few remained and became violent towards police officers. 

29 people were arrested for various offences including violent disorder, public order offences and assault on emergency service workers.

“I am deeply saddened and depressed that a minority of protesters became violent towards officers in central London yesterday evening,” Commissioner Dame Cressida said earlier today.

“This led to 14 officers being injured, in addition to 13 hurt in earlier protests this week.

We have made a number of arrests and justice will follow. The number of assaults is shocking and completely unacceptable.

“I know many who were seeking to make their voices heard will be as appalled as I am by those scenes. There is no place for violence in our city.

“Officers displayed extreme patience and professionalism throughout a long and difficult day, and I thank them for that.”

14 officers were injured yesterday – two seriously. One police officer was seen to fall from her horse. She was taken to hospital and underwent surgery.

She remains in hospital where she is in a stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries. 

“The violent and hostile scenes officers faced yesterday were completely unacceptable. It is shocking that a number were attacked and injured,” superintendent Jo Edwards, a spokesperson for policing the demonstrations today said. 

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that while the majority of protesters were peaceful, pockets of violence was “simply not acceptable”.

In a statement, Khan said: “I stand with you and share your anger and pain. George Floyd’s brutal killing must lead to immediate and lasting change in countries, cities, police services and institutions everywhere. We must root out racism wherever it is found.

“The vast majority of protesters in London were peaceful. But this vital cause was badly let down by a tiny minority who turned violent and threw glass bottles and lit flares, endangering other protesters and injuring police officers.

“This is simply not acceptable, will not be tolerated and will not win the lasting and necessary change we desperately need to see.”

It comes ahead of more anti-racism demonstrations which are due to take place in London and across the country today.

A rally is scheduled outside the US Embassy in Battersea, south-west London, while an estimated 4,000 people are expected at a gathering in Bristol and demonstrations will also be held in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is “undoubtedly a risk” that there will be an increase in coronavirus cases following the protests.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday he supported the protesters’ arguments, but urged: “Please don’t gather in groups of more than six people because there is also a pandemic that we must address and control.

“And so we’ve got to make the argument, we’ve got to make further progress, on top of the significant progress that has been made in recent years, but we’ve got to do it in a way that’s safe and controls the virus.”

Dame Cressida urged protesters to find “another way” of making their voices heard, rather than descending on the capital’s streets amid the coronavirus crisis.

Police were out in significant numbers for the marches through London on Saturday, including outside the US Embassy, in protest against police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

- With reporting by Orla Dwyer.

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