Black Lives Matter: Police ready for ‘large crowds’ at London anti-racism protests

Large crowds are expected at anti-racism protests in London this weekend, with police urging demonstrators to discourage violence and to socially distance.

Protests in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement have taken place in the capital and across the UK since the killing of George Floyd in the US.

The vast majority of people attending have been peaceful.

However, at a counter-protest last weekend, demonstrators – some from far-right groups – clashed with police and BLM protesters near Westminster and Trafalgar Square.

Scotland Yard’s Commander Alex Murray said more than 100 officers had been assaulted at protests since the end of May.

“I really hope we’re not going to see what we saw last weekend or the weekend before,” he said.

“We don’t have any information there’s anyone from the right wing attending but we have got information that large crowds of people will be attending.”

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Coronavirus lockdown regulations still prohibit gatherings of more than six people in England.

“There’s a health crisis going on,” said Mr Murray.

“We want people to be safe, we don’t want people to come to London and get infected. So we’d encourage people to stay at home.

Police were confronted by counter-protesters in Whitehall on 16 June

“If you feel compelled to protest, please use your influence and encourage other protesters not to be violent and to remain safe and socially distanced.

“We understand people want their voice heard and nobody really wants violence and it’s only a small minority who spoil it for each other and hurt the police.”

A 5pm curfew was among measures put in place ahead of last weekend’s protests, with fears of clashes between rival protesters.

Police and protesters clashed after a day of mostly peaceful anti-racism protests.

7 June: Police run from crowds in London protest

Monuments were boarded up, including the statue of Sir Winston Churchill, which had previously been daubed with graffiti accusing the wartime prime minister of being a racist.

While the protective covers have now been removed, police have no plans to position large numbers of officers around them.

“We won’t have pre-prepared cordons around statues, but we will act on intelligence and information and if we hear something like that is planned then we would act as the public would expect us to,” said Mr Murray.

“The police have never asked for those statues to be protected. That’s a matter for the local authority. Our focus is on reducing violence and protecting the public, protecting citizens.

“But we will also investigate if criminal damage takes place. So we will prevent violence and we’ll also try to prevent criminal damage.”

Mr Floyd died when a police officer held him down by pressing his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on 25 May.

Scotland Yard’s officers have arrested almost 230 protesters – 128 of whom were detained during the counter-demonstration on 13 June – and released 35 pictures of people they want to speak to.

Andrew Banks, 28, from Essex, was jailed for two weeks on Monday after admitting urinating next to a memorial to PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death in the 2017 Westminster terror attack.

Daniel John Allan, 35, and James Meikle, 38, were also remanded in custody on Monday after admitting attacking police.

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