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Thursday, Dec 03, 2020

Clashes between UK police and 'statue defenders' in fourth weekend of protests

As more anti-racism demonstrations are being held in cities across Britain, clashes have broken out between counter-protesters and police in Glasgow.
Police were forced to form a barrier between groups supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and self-appointed ‘statue defenders’.

It follows scenes of ‘racist thuggery’ on Wednesday when far-right Scottish loyalists from the National Defence League attacked a pro-asylum seeker rally in the city, leading to at least six arrests.

Ever since the statue of slave owner Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol on June 7, debate has been raging over what to do with monuments honouring people who played a role in slavery or held racist and imperialist views.

In response to demonstrators spray painting ‘racist’ on a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in London, a combination of football hooligans, veterans and far-right activists descended on the capital to ‘defend’ the city’s statues, only to fight with police officers tasked with doing the same thing.

Organisers of today’s rally in Glasgow said it would be sending a ‘positive anti-racist message’ to mark World Refugee Day.

Supporters include Stand Up To Racism, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Positive Action in Housing, Afghan Human Rights Foundation and unions.

More than 500 people attended the rally, with stewards asking them to stick to social distancing guidelines by following markings on the square.

They had also been asked to wear masks and not to travel farther than public health advice allows.

Protesters were filmed taking the knee in solidarity with George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis, USA, sparking demonstrations across the world.

But far-right activists had said online they planned to head to the rally in George Square to ‘protect statues’. Among the counter-protesters today included members of the Green Brigade, linked to Celtic ultras.

Police horses and around 100 riot officers were used to control their arrival in the square and when the event ended around noon they were kettled before being moved through the city.

Yesterday evening divisional police commander of Greater Glasgow, chief superintendent Hazel Hendren said: ‘Please do not come to George Square tomorrow. The lockdown restrictions remain in place and people should leave their homes only for very limited purposes.

‘Anyone who wants to protest should find another way of doing so that keeps everyone safe.’

Demonstrations have been taking place today in a number of cities, including London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

Protesters in the capital assembled around Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, while 14 police vans lined up the road at Marble Arch.

Organisers have been handing out face masks and gloves as a precaution against coronavirus.

A 23-year-old demonstrator, who gave her name only as Victoria, said: ‘Before coming to the protests I was seeing everything online – all these videos of police brutality and it makes you so angry and makes you consider your own feelings about racism.

‘When I come to these protests it is such a release, it almost feels like peace – you have family, you have people who want to understand and it’s like a community.’

Victoria said racist comments were just a fact of life and that just before shutdown a man in a club had asked her if she was ‘from the ghetto’.

Scotland Yard have arrested some 230 people in relation to recent protests in the capital, and have issued pictures of 35 wanted suspects.

The Metropolitan Police have said more than 100 officers in London have been assaulted since the end of May and have urged protesters to remain peaceful.

Commander Alex Murray said: ‘Whilst the vast majority of people who have attended demonstrations over the past few weeks were not violent, there have a small minority intent on violence against our officers and others, and this is completely unacceptable and we are working hard to bring offenders to justice.

‘Officers will be making arrests if there is violence. We would encourage those planning to attend, to use your influence and spread the message that criminal activity and violence will undermine the messages you are wanting people to hear and must be avoided.

‘We have a post investigation team who will gather all the available evidence and bring those identified to justice.’

He said that unlike last weekend, there was no evidence of far-right groups planning to head to London this weekend.
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