George Floyd: Cabinet did not take part in minute's silence this morning, No 10 confirms

Boris Johnson told senior ministers of the 'anger and grief' caused around the world by killing

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 09 June 2020 14:14 BST
Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol pull down statue of 17th century slave trader

Boris Johnson and his cabinet did not take part in the minute's silence for George Floyd, a Downing Street spokesman has revealed.

The silence at 11am was marked in the House of Commons, where MPs stood in respect for the African-American man whose killing while being detained by US police has sparked protests around the world.

But the prime minister's official spokesman said that Mr Johnson and his senior ministers were discussing the Floyd case at the time and did not break off from their weekly meeting.

The spokesman said that the PM used the opportunity to recognise the “anger and grief” felt over Floyd’s killing not only in the US, but in countries around the world including the UK.

But he also restated his warning that those who break social distancing rules or attack property or the police in protest marches “will face the full force of the law”.

With campaigners now demanding the removal of a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University, the spokesman said Mr Johnson was clear that "desecrating" a monument was against the law.

But he stopped short of telling police to step if the Rhodes statue is attacked during a demonstration planned for this evening, following controversy after Avon and Somerset police's decision to hold back from intervening when demonstrators destroyed a memorial to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

“Police will have to make their own operational decisions based on individual circumstances but I think the PM is very clear that people should not be desecrating public monuments and where they do so they should face the full force of the law,” said the spokesman.

He insisted that the UK was a “much less racist country” than it once was, but said there was “much more to do” to eradicated prejudice and discrimination.

His spokesman said the PM will use upcoming speeches to set out how he wants to use his “levelling up” agenda to address imbalances not only between different regions of the country but also between different ethnic and religious groups.

“The PM began cabinet by discussing the anger and the grief that is not just felt in the US but around the world including the UK following the death of George Floyd,” said the spokesman.

“He said those who lead and govern simply cannot ignore the depth of emotion that has been triggered.

“The PM said there was an undeniable feeling of injustice and that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination in education, in employment and in the application of criminal law.

“The PM said we’re a much, much less racist society than we were but we must also frankly acknowledge that there’s so much more to do in eradicating prejudice and creating opportunity.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the minute's silence in parliament.

“Today, at 11am, Parliament held a minute’s silence in memory of George Floyd," said Starmer.

“He must not become just another name. His death must be a catalyst for change. The Labour Party stands with those opposing racism and oppression in the UK and across the world.”

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