Patel condemns ‘unacceptable thuggery’ as ‘statue protectors’ clash with police

Police were pelted with bottles during confrontations in central London after large crowds gathered claiming they were there to protect statues from Black Lives Matter protesters.

Hundreds of mostly white men converged on Parliament Square on Saturday after far-right groups, including Britain First, called on supporters to guard the monuments.

Many of those present were drinking and there were a number of clashes with police in riot gear as crowds chanting 'England' and raising their arms surged towards lines of officers.

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Police clash with far-right demonstrators in London
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Police clash with far-right demonstrators in London
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 13: An activist argues with a police officer on Parliament Street on June 13, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Following a social media post by the far-right activist known as Tommy Robinson, members of far-right linked groups have gathered around statues in London. Several statues in the UK have been targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters for their links to racism and the slave trade (Photo by Kate Green/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Protesters from the Democratic Football Lads Alliance clash with people taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square, London.
Protesters from the Democratic Football Lads Alliance clash with people taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square, London.
Police are confronted by protesters in Whitehall near Parliament Square, London, during a protest by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance against a Black Lives Matter protest.
Police are confronted by protesters in Whitehall near Parliament Square, London, during a protest by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance against a Black Lives Matter protest.
Police escort a photographer with blood on their face outside the Houses of Parliament in London, during a protest by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance against a Black Lives Matter protest.
Police escort a photographer with blood on their face outside the Houses of Parliament in London, during a protest by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance against a Black Lives Matter protest.
Members of far-right Football Lads Alliance hold a banner during a counter protest in Parliament Square, central London, Saturday, June 13, 2020. British police have imposed strict restrictions on groups planning to protest in London Saturday in a bid to avoid violent clashes between protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as far-right groups.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Members of far-right Football Lads Alliance hold a British flag in front of a protective covering surrounding the statue of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, central London, Saturday, June 13, 2020. British police have imposed strict restrictions on groups planning to protest in London Saturday in a bid to avoid violent clashes between protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as far-right groups.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A member of a far-right group that climbed on a pole chants slogans along Whitehall, in central London, Saturday, June 13, 2020. British police have imposed strict restrictions on groups planning to protest in London Saturday in a bid to avoid violent clashes between protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as far-right groups.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 13: Activists from far-right linked groups chant as they face police officers in Trafalgar Square on June 13, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Following a social media post by the far-right activist known as Tommy Robinson, members of far-right linked groups have gathered around statues in London. Several statues in the UK have been targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters for their links to racism and the slave trade. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 13: Activists from far-right linked groups face police officers in Trafalgar Square on June 13, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Following a social media post by the far-right activist known as Tommy Robinson, members of far-right linked groups have gathered around statues in London. Several statues in the UK have been targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters for their links to racism and the slave trade. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A masked far-right protester walks as British police officers in riot gear escort him and others away in central London, as groups gather to counter-protest against a Black Lives Matter demonstration, Saturday, June 13, 2020. British police have imposed strict restrictions on groups planning to protest in London Saturday in a bid to avoid violent clashes between protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as far-right groups.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A far-right protester gestures towards British police officers in riot gear at Trafalgar Square in central London, as groups gather to counter-protest against a Black Lives Matter demonstration, Saturday, June 13, 2020. British police have imposed strict restrictions on groups planning to protest in London Saturday in a bid to avoid violent clashes between protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as far-right groups.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Far-right protesters gesture as they confront British police officers at Trafalgar Square in central London, during a counter-protest against a Black Lives Matter demonstration, Saturday, June 13, 2020. British police have imposed strict restrictions on groups planning to protest in London Saturday in a bid to avoid violent clashes between protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as far-right groups.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A protester is detained by police near Westminster Abbey in London.
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As several hundred demonstrators blocked roads around Parliament Square, police tried to corral them onto the pavements.

Other officers, some holding shields, remained in a line blocking access to the Cenotaph in Whitehall, while some in the crowd screamed abuse at them.

Their behaviour was slammed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who tweeted: "Thoroughly 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."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also took to Twitter to condemn the violence, writing: "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."

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.

Police on horseback pushed back demonstrators near the statues of Mandela and Gandhi on Saturday as protesters continued to throw objects towards them, including at least one smoke bomb.

Large groups of far-right protesters moved to Trafalgar Square, where fireworks were thrown across the crowds.

Police attempted to stop them getting to Hyde Park where a Black Lives Matter demonstration, which had largely been peaceful, was taking place.

Black Lives Matter protests
People taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

The violence continued as some protesters managed to break metal barriers around the Cenotaph on Whitehall while hurling flag poles, a smoke flare and a traffic cone towards police who were striking them back with batons.

Speaking before the clashes, Paul Golding, leader of Britain First, said the crowds had turned out to "guard our monuments", telling 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.

Black Lives Matter protests
Britain First leader Paul Golding (right) shakes hands with a protester in Parliament Square (Jonathan Brady/PA)

"Anyone who comes along today to try and vandalise them will probably be dealt with by all of these Englishmen that turned up, and they're fed up as well."

But when asked the Nelson Mandela statue, Mr Golding said: "Why should we have a communist terrorist mass murderer in the capital city of England? It doesn't make any sense.

"We would like to see that one go, on good grounds, but the rest of them are our historical heritage."

A demonstrator from south London, who gave her name as Victoria, was in the square with a banner reading "All lives matter".

Discussing controversial statues, she told PA: "It's the past. You've just gotta learn to live with it, they've done what they've done but it's still in the records they did good things.

Black Lives Matter protests
A protesters in Newcastle holds up a picture of George Floyd (Owen Humphreys/PA)

"I've got things I don't want to remember, but I wouldn't go smashing things up because of it."

Daisy, a 26-year-old from Pimlico, passed demonstrators in Parliament Square as she went for a run at around 10.30am on Saturday morning and claimed many were already drinking alcohol.

"They were all drinking beers and there was already loads of cans lying round on the floor treating it like it was some sort of football away-day," she told PA.

"It was a really tense and hostile atmosphere. I didn't stay too long... it was really uncomfortable."

In an attempt to avoid a repeat of last week's sporadic clashes with officers during BLM protests, the Metropolitan Police warned people joining demonstrations on Saturday that they must be off the streets by 5pm or risk being arrested.

In response to the statements by far right groups, BML organisers urged supporters to stay away from central London on Saturday.

Black Lives Matter protests
Protesters from Black Lives Matter take part in a silent vigil in Brighton (Andrew Matthews/PA)

There were similar gatherings on Saturday in Belfast, Glasgow and Bristol with crowds massing around monuments.

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 Black Lives Matter protesters, while the UK's war-time Prime Minister memorial in London was defaced with the words "was a racist".

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