Demonstrators gather for third weekend of Black Lives Matter protests
Demonstrators have gathered for a third weekend of Black Lives Matter protests in London amid a heavy police presence.
Scores of protesters assembled at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, which took on a picnic atmosphere on Saturday, with groups sitting on the grass and various platforms set up.
A total of 14 police vans surrounded the scene, with Scotland Yard earlier warning previous protests have been marred by a “small minority intent on violence” after more than 100 officers were assaulted in recent weeks.
Separately, another group was filmed chanting “no justice, no peace” as people marched from Vauxhall en route to Parliament Square.
Thousands have taken to the streets in anti-racism protests across the UK, sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in the US last month.
One demonstrator, who gave her name only as Victoria, told the PA news agency: “Before coming to the protests I was seeing everything online – all these videos of police brutality and it makes you so angry and makes you consider your own feelings about racism.”
The 23-year-old, who has been to two previous BLM demonstrations, said: “When I come to these protests it is such a release, it almost feels like peace – you have family, you have people who want to understand and it’s like a community.”
Another demonstrator, 23-year-old Tash, said: “This protest makes me feel hopeful but it also concerns me.
“We’re in a pandemic and I don’t want it to just be a hashtag and a trend.
“It is hopeful because people are finally listening but are they just listening because they have the time and they are bored?
“I want to see change, I want this to be followed through.”
Describing her own experience of racism growing up in London, she said: “I’ve been asked what slave country I come from – in all seriousness – and I just think: How do I respond to that?”
The organisation that represents rank-and-file police officers in England and Wales has called on the Home Secretary to ban all protests while the threat of Covid-19 remains.
Police Federation chairman John Apter said Priti Patel must be “unequivocal” in stating that large gatherings are not allowed.
But Downing Street said any ban is an “operational matter” for senior officers to apply to the Home Secretary for.
A total of 10 people have now been charged with offences in connection with the BLM protests and far-right counter demonstrations in London over the past three weekends, Scotland Yard said.
The Met has released images of a further 35 suspects they want to speak to in connection with violence at the protests, with police pelted with missiles, smoke grenades, glass bottles and flares.
Recent events have been triggered by the death of Mr Floyd, who died after a white police officer held him down by pressing his knee into his neck for almost nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.
Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray said: “Whilst the vast majority of people who have attended demonstrations over the past few weeks were not violent, there have a small minority intent on violence against our officers and others, and this is completely unacceptable and we are working hard to bring offenders to justice.
“Officers will be making arrests if there is violence.
“We would encourage those planning to attend to use your influence and spread the message that criminal activity and violence will undermine the messages you are wanting people to hear and must be avoided.
“We have a post-investigation team who will gather all the available evidence and bring those identified to justice.”
Separately, anti-racism protesters gathered in Glasgow City Centre on Saturday despite being warned to stay away by police.
The city’s George Square has been the scene of clashes in recent weeks, with far-right groups organising counter-protests to “protect statues”.