Police struggle to keep rival protesters apart as tensions rise

Police have struggled to keep anti-racism protesters and rival demonstrators apart during a day of unrest in central London.

As Black Lives Matter supporters gathered in Hyde Park, a crowd of people – some of them far-right activists – gathered in Parliament Square, where they were claiming to protect statues.

Despite both groups being warned that they must be off the streets by 5pm or risk arrest, footage shows that a significant number of people defied that order.

Protesters who are still out after 5pm have been told they are at risk of arrest

In Parliament Square, some activists were accused of “thoroughly unacceptable thuggery” as some threw bottles and cans at police officers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law. These marches & protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.”

Sky’s home affairs correspondent Mark White, in Westminster, said there was “significant disorder” at times – and six police officers have been injured.

The London Ambulance Service confirming it has treated 15 patients who were injured during the protests. Six members of the public have been taken to hospital.

As of 5pm, five people had been arrested for offences including violent disorder, assault on police, possession of an offensive weapon, being drunk and disorderly, and possession of Class A drugs.

counter protesters attack police

Scuffles break out in central London

White explained: “The clashes are happening when some of these counter-protesters come into contact with any of the other anti-racism protesters.”

He said that, on Westminster Bridge, there were “quite ugly” scenes as some anti-racism protesters shouted and punched out at counter-demonstrators attempting to reach Parliament Square.

“There were some Black Lives Matter protesters who were in there trying their best to stop their fellow protesters from attacking the counter-protesters,” he added.

Although there have been pockets of violence, White said the police had managed to prevent “widespread and sustained disorder”.

Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters clash in central London.

‘This has potential to get nasty now’

He described the counter-protesters as a “disparate group” consisting of far-right groups including the English Defence League and the Football Lads Alliance, as well as members of the public and ex-servicemen and women who were genuinely concerned about statues being vandalised.

“There were some who were spoiling for trouble – just as there was on the other side among the Black Lives Matter protests last week and today,” White added.

A small disorder broke out in Hyde Park with counter-protesters.

Counter-protesters run into Hyde Park

At one point, “about 150 to 200” counter-demonstrators ran into Hyde Park, despite officers trying to keep them separate from anti-racism protesters.

Sky News correspondent Noel Phillips said a convoy of police tried to catch up with them – and said it appeared they were “intent on causing chaos and havoc”.

“There was a small altercation we witnessed when they entered the park – they were fighting with a young person,” he reported.

A Black Lives Matter protester says counter-protesters confronted her in Hyde Park, London.

‘They threw a bottle at me and tripped me up’

One 16-year-old who was attacked by the counter-protesters told Sky News: “Nothing was really happening, there was no violence – and then I saw this big group of white men.

“I just went towards them and I was like ‘I don’t like you, you guys are racist’.

“One of the guys threw a bottle at me, some guy tripped me up, they all just ran towards me.

“I didn’t care though, I kept going. They were just reckless… disgusting.”

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