Right-wing activists have clashed with police in central London, after groups turned up to counter-protest a Black Lives Matter demonstration which has been cancelled.
Police had urged people not to attend the planned rally in London after the government warnings over social distancing, and the breakout of violence and defacing of public monuments in the city during protests last weekend.
Racial justice protesters and right-wing counter-protesters were told to finish their marches by 4pm CEST on Saturday, with police fearing clashes between the two sides.
However the Black Lives Matter protest was cancelled. Right-wing activists who did turn up in central London have clashed with police.
The death of George Floyd in police custody in the US last month sparked protests across the world, focused on racial injustice and police brutality. Last weekend there were violent scenes in London as police officers were attacked by a crowd of people, and some acts of vandalism were reported.
Commander Bas Javid of the Metropolitan Police said he understood “why people want to make their voices heard” but he urged people to stay away from demonstrations, pointing to the government’s calls for people not to gather in large groups amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Based on current information, and in order to keep those people safe who plan to come and protest, we have made the decision to impose conditions on the planned demonstrations tomorrow,” said Javid on Friday.
Government figures including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel have spoken out about “shameful” attacks on the statue of Britain’s war time PM Winston Churchill, which was daubed with graffiti last weekend.
Statues have become something of a focal point in the protests against racial injustice that have swept from the US to European countries.
The statue of Churchill has been boarded up ahead of the protest this weekend to protect it.
Other marches are taking place in France.
In Paris, police ordered the closure of freshly reopened restaurants and shops between Place de la Republique and the city’s main opera house fearing possible violence at a demonstration inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Also, gatherings of more than 10 people are currently banned in France due to containment measures.
The Paris march was organized by supporters of Adama Traoré, a French black man who died in police custody in 2016 in circumstances that remain unclear despite four years of back-and-forth autopsies.
Protests are also expected to gather in Marseille, Lyon and other French cities.
In the wake of Floyd’s death and the global protests it unleashed, the French government is under growing pressure to address long-running accusations of excessive violence by police, particularly against minorities.
France’s interior minister Christophe Castaner promised this week to stamp out racism and announced a ban on police chokeholds during arrests.
But French police unions held their own demonstrations on Friday, saying they’re being unfairly labelled as racist because of a few officers, and that they don’t have enough tools to deal with violent suspects.
After meeting with union representatives, the interior minister said on Friday night that police will start experimenting with expanded use of stun-guns in the future, despite concerns about their safety.