Sadiq Khan: 'Extreme far-right' don't need to come to London to protect statues

12 June 2020, 05:56 | Updated: 12 June 2020, 11:45

The statue of Churchill in Parliament Square has been boarded up
The statue of Churchill in Parliament Square has been boarded up. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Sadiq Khan has told LBC far-right groups have no need to come to central London to protect statues and monuments as they have now been boarded up ahead of planned protests.

The Mayor of London has said he is extremely concerned that further protests in central London could lead to disorder, vandalism and violence, and also risk spreading Covid-19.

Ahead of the protests planned for the weekend, the Mayor told LBC there was no need for protesters to come to London to protect statues and monuments as those which are at risk have been boarded up.

Mr Khan told LBC he felt "far-right counter protests" were a "potential recipe for violence, vandalism, disorder and the spread of Covid-19".

He said protesters should not "fall into the trap being set by the far-right."

"If their concern is they're worried about Winston Churchill being vandalised, or the Cenotaph having graffiti on it, we've not covered those things up, and the flags. So I am not quite clear what they'd be seeking to do, expect to sow discord and disharmony."

The Mayor told LBC their reason to come to central London "has now gone."

The Mayor's comments come after clashes last weekend between protesters and police in Whitehall during anti-racism demonstrations, which also saw several statues and monuments defaced with graffiti.

Mr Khan said he was working with the Metropolitan Police and partners to ensure statues and monuments at risk, including the Cenotaph, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, are covered and protected.

The Mayor expressed concern that extreme far-right groups which "advocate hatred and division", could clash with anti-racism protesters leading to violence and disorder.

The statue of Churchill was spray painted by protesters
The statue of Churchill was spray painted by protesters. Picture: PA
One protester attempted to set file to a flag on the Cenotaph
One protester attempted to set file to a flag on the Cenotaph. Picture: PA

It comes as the Democratic Football Lads Alliance called on supporters to travel to London to protect monuments after a number were vandalised in recent protests.

Far-right figure Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has expressed his support.

The Churchill statue has been totally covered
The Churchill statue has been totally covered. Picture: PA
Authorities have put up a hoarding around the Cenotaph
Authorities have put up a hoarding around the Cenotaph. Picture: PA

Mr Khan said: "It is clear that the majority of the protesters have been peaceful. This moment must be a catalyst for systemic, lasting change to tackle the racism and inequalities that black people still face today, in this country and elsewhere.

"However, I'm extremely concerned that further protests in central London not only risk spreading Covid-19, but could lead to disorder, vandalism and violence.

"Extreme far-right groups who advocate hatred and division are planning counter-protests, which means that the risk of disorder is high.

"Be in no doubt these counter-protests are there to provoke violence, and their only goal is to distract and hijack this important issue.

"Staying home and ignoring them is the best response this weekend."

Last weekend saw demonstrators clash with police in London, while in Bristol a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped in the city's harbour.

Police chiefs have warned that forces will act to stop disorder after 62 officers were injured in protests triggered by the death of George Floyd.

He warned that there have been confirmed new cases of coronavirus among protesters around the world, adding: "I fear we will see the same here."

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