A man urinated next to a memorial dedicated to the police officer killed in the Westminster terror attack amid violent clashes between far-right protesters and police in central London.
everal hundred demonstrators, mostly white men, attended the protest organised by far-right groups, including Britain First, which claimed they wanted to protect statues such as Winston Churchill from vandalism.
But fights erupted in areas near the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square, as demonstrators repeatedly assailed officers with foul-mouthed chants and missiles, smoke grenades and flares.
Shards of glass were strewn along the streets close to the Cenotaph on Whitehall after bottles were thrown at police officers clad in riot gear.
MP Tobias Ellwood, who gave first aid to Pc Keith Palmer as he lay dying after being stabbed to death in the grounds Parliament by Khalid Masood in 2017, said the image of the man urinating next to the memorial was “abhorrent”.
The Tory MP for Bournemouth East and chairman of the Defence Select Committee, tweeted a picture of the man and wrote: “Absolute shame on this man.
“Of all the images to emerge over these few testing days I find this one of most abhorrent. Please help identify him.”
Absolute shame on this man.
Of all the images to emerge over these few testing days I find this one of most abhorrent.
Please help identify him. pic.twitter.com/8ydcNmTWrN
— Tobias Ellwood MP (@Tobias_Ellwood) June 13, 2020
The violent scenes are in contrast with peaceful demonstrations that took place at Hyde Park and Marble Arch by anti-racism protesters in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
On Friday, statues in Parliament Square – including of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi – were boarded up to prevent them being targeted by protesters both from the Black Lives Matter movement and far-right groups.
The Metropolitan Police warned people joining demonstrations on Saturday that they must be off the streets by 5pm or risk being arrested.
At around 4pm, the crowd in Parliament Square thinned out after one of the exits was opened, although a few hundred people remained in the area ahead of the 5pm deadline.
The violence has been condemned by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Priti Patel, with the latter branding it as “thoroughly unacceptable thuggery”.
This is totally unacceptable. We will not tolerate attacks on our police and perpetrators will feel the full force of the law.
It is clear that far right groups are causing violence and disorder in central London, I urge people to stay away. https://t.co/ZImnvmfWeL
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 13, 2020
Speaking before the clashes, Paul Golding, leader of Britain First, said the crowds had turned out to “guard our monuments”.
Mr Golding, who was convicted of a terror offence last month, told the PA news agency: “I am extremely fed up with the way that the authorities have allowed two consecutive weekends of vandalism against our national monuments.”
There were similar gatherings on Saturday in Belfast, Glasgow and Bristol with crowds massing around monuments.
Throughly unacceptable thuggery.
Any perpetrators of violence or vandalism should expect to face the full force of the law. Violence towards our police officers will not be tolerated.
Coronavirus remains a threat to us all. Go home to stop the spread of this virus & save lives. https://t.co/HsOx9cgrqD
— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) June 13, 2020
In Brighton, more than 1,000 protesters formed a line along the seafront in a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
Protests against police brutality and racism have erupted all over the UK and across the globe following the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police nearly three weeks ago.
Last week, the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped into Bristol harbour by anti-racism protesters, while the UK’s war-time Prime Minister memorial in London was defaced with the words “was a racist”.
The UK Protests in support of Black Lives Matter have largely been peaceful, although some have been marred by acts of violence towards police by a comparatively small group of people.
But these attacks on officers and criminal damage on statues have lasted no more than a couple of hours, mostly towards the end of rallies.