No crime committed in ‘White Lives Matter’ banner stunt, say police

Police investigating an incident which saw a plane pass over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester carrying the message “White Lives Matter Burnley” have said no crime was committed.

Lancashire Police launched an investigation after the plane, believed to have been operated by the firm Air Ads, flew above the Etihad Stadium just after the game between Manchester City and Burnley kicked off on Monday night.

On Tuesday, police said no crime had been committed.

In a statement, Chief Superintendent Russ Procter said: “Today [Tuesday] Lancashire Constabulary has been in liaison with Greater Manchester Police, the Aviation Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service regards the ‘White Lives Matter’ banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium last night.

“After assessing all the information available surrounding this incident we have concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time.

“We will continue to work with our partners at the football club and within the local authority.”

On Tuesday, Blackpool Airport, where Air Ads is based, announced that it was suspending banner-towing operations with immediate effect.

Stephen Smith, manager of the Blackpool Council-owned airport, said: “Blackpool Airport and Blackpool Council are outraged by this incident.

“We stand against racism of any kind and absolutely do not condone the activity. The message was offensive and the action reprehensible.

“The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner-flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council.”

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and his staff take a knee before the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium
Burnley manager Sean Dyche and his staff take a knee before the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium (Michael Regan/NMC Pool/PA)

The incident happened moments after all players had taken the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many Burnley supporters and community leaders came out to condemn the stunt.

Burnley FC issued a strong statement condemning the banner during half-time and said the perpetrators would be banned for life if identified, while captain Ben Mee spoke passionately about the incident after the match.

In response to the incident, Burnley fans created a fundraiser for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, with organiser Lee Briggs, 33, a lifelong Clarets supporter, saying he felt embarrassed by his club being associated with the banner’s “racist language”.

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