U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for peace and unity after what he called “racist thuggery” erupted in London. The U.K. leader’s comments came after protests over the death of George Floyd in the country’s capital turned violent on Saturday when right-wing protesters clashed with progressives demonstrating against police brutality and racism.
“Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law. These marches & 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,” Johnson tweeted.
On Saturday, demonstrators reportedly aligned with far-right groups gathered at the location of a London protest to allegedly protect statues from anti-racist activists in the center of the city, as BBC reports.
After a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled last weekend, hundreds of so-called statue protectors surrounded a statue of Winston Churchill and the Cenotaph war memorial, claiming they were there to preserve British heritage.
The demonstrations soon turned violent. Police officers were reportedly hit with random objects like bottles and cans, and several were physically harmed by protesters. In one incident, a man kicked an officer to the ground. At least six officers suffered from minor injuries.
One man was captured in photos urinating on a statue raised to honor Keith Palmer, who was killed in the 2017 Westminster attack.
“We are aware of a disgusting and abhorrent image circulating on social media of a man appearing to urinate on a memorial to PC Palmer,” said police commander Bas Javid. “We have immediately launched an investigation, and will gather all the evidence available to us and take appropriate action.”
People at the scene set off smoke bombs and lit fireworks.
London health care workers said they treated at least 15 patients for injuries. Two of the people treated were police officers.
“Six of these patients — all members of the public — have now been taken to hospital,” a statement from the London Ambulance Service said.
The protests in London are a continuation of protests going on across the world as the result of the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Officers knelt on Floyd as he warned them that he couldn’t breathe. After calling out for his deceased mother, he became unresponsive and was later declared dead at a local hospital. The officers involved in the situation have since been arrested.
Johnson, who spent several days in intensive care recently after being infected with the novel coronavirus, spoke about the incident earlier this week, saying that Floyd’s death highlights the discrimination that marginalized people face in modern society.