Priti Patel condemns ‘desecration’ of police memorial at far-right protest

Home Secretary Priti Patel has condemned the "desecration" of Pc Keith Palmer's memorial after a man urinated next to it amid violent far-right protests in London.

Six police officers suffered minor injuries in violent clashes as several hundred demonstrators, mostly white men, attended the protest organised by far-right groups which claimed they wanted to protect statues such as Winston Churchill from vandalism.

But violence 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.

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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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A man who was part of the protest was pictured in Parliament Square urinating next to the memorial of Pc Palmer, who was stabbed to death in the 2017 terror attack in Westminster.

Ms Patel branded the act as "appalling and shameful", and likened the protesters' behaviour as "extreme thuggery".

She said: "We have seen a small minority behave in extreme thuggery and violent behaviour today.

"That is simply unacceptable and the individuals that are basically putting the safety of our police officers and the safety of the public at risk will expect to face the full force of the law.

"We have seen some shameful scenes today, including the desecration of Pc Keith Palmer's memorial in Parliament, in Westminster Square, and quite frankly that is shameful, that is absolutely appalling and shameful.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also slammed the "racist thuggery" witnessed at the protests.

He wrote on Twitter: "Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law.

"These marches and 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."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the violence against police had been "completely unacceptable".

He tweeted: "Today's (Saturday) protests in London were led by those intent on causing violence and sowing hate for their own ends. We must not let them win."

MP Tobias Ellwood, who gave first aid to Pc Palmer as he lay dying after being stabbed to death in the grounds of Parliament by Khalid Masood in 2017, said the image of the man urinating next to the memorial was "abhorrent".

Speaking to BBC News, he said the man should come forward and apologise.

"I'm really saddened to see this, in fact disgusted, it's one of the most disturbing images I've seen," he said.

When asked whether he thought the urinating man may not have noticed the memorial, Mr Ellwood said: "I don't agree with that at all.

"This is the gates of Westminster, the most iconic symbol of democracy in the world next to a monument for Pc Keith Palmer.

"He was fully aware of what he was doing, he should step forward and apologise."

The Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, Ken Marsh, condemned the "disorder and unruliness", and suggested the man pictured urinating next to the memorial should be jailed.

Scotland Yard said that as of 5pm on Saturday, they had arrested five people for offences including violent disorder, assault on police, possession of an offensive weapon, being drunk and disorderly and possession of Class A drugs.

By around 5.30pm, London Ambulance Service said it had treated 15 people for injuries, including two police officers.

Six of these patients, all members of the public, had to be taken to hospital.

The violent scenes in Westminster contrasted 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.

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

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.

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

Avon and Somerset Police said around 300 people attended the demonstration in Bristol city centre, with two arrests made.

In Brighton, more than 10,000 protesters attended a Black Lives Matter event in the city centre, after many lined the seafront in support of the movement.

A Sussex Police spokesman said the demonstration was peaceful and no arrests were made.

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