Protesters gather in London as statues boarded up amid fears of violence from far-right hate groups
From Simon Cullen and Max Ramsay in London
Black Lives Matters protesters gathered in central London today ahead of the 5 p.m. end time set by authorities concerned after plans by far-right hate groups to stage counter-protests.
Statues of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were boarded up in Parliament Square. One self-declared England fan and soccer hooligan confirmed to CNN that there were threats to pull down the Mandela statue.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged residents to stay away from protests this weekend amid a “high” risk of violence in the city.
“I’d like to make a direct appeal to Londoners to urge you not to take to the streets to protest over the coming few days,” Khan said in a video posted on social media.
“I stand with the millions of people around the world who are saying loud and clear that Black Lives Matter,” he said, adding that the majority of protesters are peaceful. “However, I’m extremely concerned that further protests in central London could not only risk spreading Covid-19, but also lead to disorder, vandalism and violence.”
“We know that extreme far-right groups, who openly advocate hatred and division, are planning counter protests.
“This means that the risk of disorder is high.”
Khan said the counter-protests were clearly designed to provoke violence, and the best way to respond was to stay home and ignore them.
He said more than 60 police officers had already been injured while responding to previous demonstrations, adding that authorities will respond forcefully to those causing violence this time.
The UK’s official Black Lives Matter group also asked protesters to stay in their local areas, and an anti-racism charity warned about the possibility of violence from “football hooligans” and far-right groups.
An earlier version of this post misidentified the statues boarded up in London. Statues of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi have been covered.