British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned violence that erupted during protests Saturday in London as “racist thuggery,” after run-ins between reported right-wing protesters and police were posted on social media.
- Demonstrators took to London Friday in what they said was a bid to protect historic statues like that of former PM Winston Churchill from being knocked down by anti-racism protesters, but confrontations with police soon grew violent.
- Protesters in Parliament Square threw bottles, cans and a smoke canister at police, according to The Guardian, while scuffles broke out at other central London landmarks.
- According to the BBC, the crowd was made up of several thousand people, mostly men and included members of soccer hooligan groups and far-right organizations.
- Reuters reported that clashes between rightwing and anti-racism protesters broke out near Waterloo Station Saturday and saw missiles and fireworks thrown before police intervened.
- Government officials took to social media to denounce the violence, with Johnson saying “anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law.”
- More than 100 people were arrested during Saturday’s protests, according to police.
- Black Lives Matter movement organizers had moved a planned Saturday protest up a day out of fears of clashing with the rightwing groups, though anti-racism protesters reportedly held peaceful demonstrations Saturday at Hyde Park and Marble Arch.
The protesters claimed to have shown up Saturday to defend symbols of British heritage like statues, but were widely panned after one demonstrator was photographed urinating next to a memorial to PC Keith Palmer, an officer who died in the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in 2017.
Statues of British historical figures with problematic pasts have become a contentious issue as anti-racism protesters in recent weeks left graffiti on statues and even overthrew the statue of a slaver in Bristol before dumping it in the nearby waterway. Statues across London had been boarded up in preparation for planned protests this weekend.