Thousands expected to attend anti-racism protests across UK despite ministers warning against mass gatherings

Demonstrators set to gather in cities including London, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol and Leicester

Colin Drury
Saturday 06 June 2020 14:44
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Black Lives Matter protest in Trafalgar Square in London
Black Lives Matter protest in Trafalgar Square in London

Thousands of anti-racism protestors are set to attend demonstrations across the UK this weekend – despite government warnings that such mass gatherings are banned under the coronavirus lockdown.

Rallies will be held in cities including London, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Leicester with supporters demanding an end to institutional discrimination.

It comes as worldwide anger continued to grow over the death of George Floyd, a black father-of-one in the US city of Minneapolis last week.

The 46-year-old died after a white police officer pressed a knee onto his neck for nine minutes – despite the former bouncer being unarmed and not appearing to resist arrest.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with murder.

Although Black Lives Matter protests have already been held in London and Birmingham this week, the weekend gatherings are expected to be the biggest yet.

In the capital, attendees will converge on Parliament Square on Saturday and then at the US Embassy on Sunday.

But ministers say that, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, such mass rallies will not only be unlawful but a risk to public health

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing on Friday evening, health secretary Matt Hancock said he was "appalled" by the death of Mr Floyd but stressed that coronavirus rules remained in place.

"I understand why people are deeply upset but we are still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat,” he said.

"The reason that it is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend is to protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease.

"So please, for the safety of your loved ones, do not attend large gatherings including demonstrations of more than six people."

His comments were echoed by home secretary Priti Patel who posted on Twitter that people should not gather in groups larger than six.

She added: "Please for the safety of all of us, do not attend large gatherings – including protests – of more than six people this weekend…

“Coronavirus remains a real threat and people must protect themselves and their families from this horrific disease."

In the US, protests are now entering their second weekend with police there accused of widespread brutality against demonstrators.

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