Black Lives Matter demo called off over far-right fears while government plans to fast-track jailing of protesters

The Canary

Black Lives Matter organisers have cancelled a protest in London’s Hyde Park over fears it would be hijacked by far-right groups.

Former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson has expressed support for calls by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance for people to travel to the capital to protect monuments.

A protective box has been erected around the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. Scaffolding and boards were also put up around the Cenotaph.

The protests, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, saw clashes between protesters and police in London. While in Bristol a statue of Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped in the harbour.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan pleaded with the public to stay at home amid concerns that further protests in London, particularly by far-right groups which “advocate hatred and division”, could lead to violence and disorder.

Organising group BLM LDN said a planned protest in Hyde Park on Saturday was cancelled, although a similar event on Friday will still go ahead. An Instagram post said:

We want the protests to be a safe space for people to attend however we don’t think it’ll be possible with people like them present

Swift jailing of protesters

It comes as reports suggested protesters could be jailed within 24 hours after justice secretary Robert Buckland and home secretary Priti Patel drew up plans based on the response to the 2011 London riots. Anybody accused of vandalising, causing criminal damage or assaulting police officers could be quickly processed through magistrates’ courts with extended opening hours, according to the Times.

More than 130 protesters have been arrested as more than 155,000 people across the UK took part in almost 200 demonstrations, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

Khan said:

I’m extremely concerned that further protests in central London not only risk spreading Covid-19, but could lead to disorder, vandalism and violence.

Extreme far-right groups who advocate hatred and division are planning counter-protests, which means that the risk of disorder is high.

Be in no doubt these counter-protests are there to provoke violence, and their only goal is to distract and hijack this important issue.

Staying home and ignoring them is the best response this weekend.

Falling statues

The warning comes as the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement continues to be felt across the country with the removal of a string of monuments and statues.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London announced it will remove two statues of their namesakes from public view due to their links to the slave trade. And a video circulating online showed workers scaling Colston Tower in Bristol city centre and removing the controversial figure’s name from the top of the high-rise building.

Hours earlier, Colston’s statue was fished out of Bristol harbour after being pulled down and dumped into the water during a Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday 7 June.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council have delayed plans to temporarily remove a statue of Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell after angry residents vowed to fight to protect it.

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
The Canary