London protests: Johnson condemns ‘racist thuggery’ after far right demonstrators clash with police outside parliament

Crowd chants support for EDL and hurls projectiles at officers in rally organised to ‘defend statues’

Police on horseback with shields and helmets at rival demonstrations

Boris Johnson has condemned "racist thuggery" after far-right protesters clashed with police and anti-racism activists in London, leaving 27 people injured.

The Metropolitan Police said more than 100 people had been arrested following the violence on Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of demonstrators – united under the banners of football hooligan groups and far-right organisations – descended on Whitehall in what was billed by organisers to be a “peaceful protest” in defence of statues in the area.

The action, which focussed around war memorial the Cenotaph and a statue of Winston Churchill, came in response to protest movements against symbols of white supremacy and colonialism across the country including Bristol – where a monument to slaver Edward Colston was pulled from its plinth and hurled into the river Avon.

However, with the cenotaph barricaded off and the Churchill statue covered, the proesters in Parliament Square turned on law enforcement – hurling glass bottles and metal barricade at police officers.

Chanting the names of the English Defence League and its former leader – far-right figure head Tommy Robinson – scores of protesters could be seen rushing police lines, throwing punches at officers as well as slinging faeces, traffic cones and smoke grenades at police horses.

Robinson had previously been due to attend the event – but pulled out at the last minute claiming he didn’t “want to be responsible for more racial division”. Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First who was found guilty of an offence under the Terrorism Act earlier this year, was in attendance.

Boris Johnson 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.”

While a large-scale march under the banner of anti-racism movement Black Lives Matter had been slated for the weekend, organisers called the event off over fears right-wing activists may target what they had hoped would be a peaceful event.

Instead small pockets of activists took to the streets. Skirmishes also broke out in Trafalgar Square, where a small number of far-right activists clashed with Black Lives Matters protestors.

And footage of altercations inside and outside Waterloo station also appeared to be divided between BLM and the far right – with an alleged member of the latter being attacked by a number of protestors in one clip.

The Met Police, who introduced a 5pm curfew as well as overnight stop and search powers, said six officers had been harmed during altercations with the far right.

Eleven members of the public were taken to hospital with injuries.

More than 100 people were arrested on suspicion of offences including violent disorder, assault on police, possession of an offensive weapon, being drunk and disorderly, and possession of Class A drugs.

In a statement, Met Commander Bas Javid said: “Thousands have travelled to London despite being asked not to and some of those have been intent on causing harm.

“We understand why people want to express their concerns and have worked hard to keep people safe.

“Many people have complied with these conditions, and have listened to officers during the day, and have behaved as we have requested in order to keep them safe.

“A number of people have not followed these conditions, putting officers, and others’ safety at risk.

“There have been pockets of violence directed towards our officers. This is completely unacceptable and I condemn those involved.”

Police have launched an investigation into a picture of a protester urinating on a memorial to PC Keith Palmer, who died defending parliament from terrorist Khalid Masood during the Westminster attack in 2017.

Among those to criticise the man, who has not yet been identified, was MP Tobias Ellwood – who had attempted to save Mr Palmer’s life on the day of his death.

“Absolute shame on this man”, he wrote on Twitter. “Of all the images to emerge over these few testing days I find this one of most abhorrent.”

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh condemned the “disorder and unruliness” witnessed at the far-right protests in London, which coincided with demonstrations elsewhere in the UK in cities including Bristol and Newcastle.

“It’s horrendous”, Mr Marsh said. “A faction of people today only had one intention – to be violent and unlawful, they didn’t come here to protect the statues, it’s just disorder and unruliness.

“I suggest serious custodial sentences in relation to assaults on police and others, criminal damage and urinating next to the memorial of heroes.”

The home secretary, Priti Patel, who has been vocal in her opposition to violent Black Lives Matter protests across the last week, also hit out at the Parliament Square rally.

“Thoroughly unacceptable thuggery,” she wrote on Twitter. “Any perpetrators of violence or vandalism should expect to face the full force of the law. Violence towards our police officers will not be tolerated.”

In Bristol city centre, Avon and Somerset Police said it had made two arrests at a demonstration attended by about 300 people.

“Our priority has been to maintain public safety at all times and had an appropriate plan in place,’’ a force spokesman said. “It was largely peaceful, with a few incidents of minor disorder.

In Brighton, a Sussex Police spokesman confirmed anti-racism protests concluded without incident.

“A Black Lives Matter protest event in Brighton city centre on Saturday, which was attended by more than 10,000 people, passed off peacefully,” a spokesperson said. “There were no arrests.”

Additional reporting by PA

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