ActivePaper Archive Anti-racists, far-right in city clashes - The Age, 6/15/2020

Anti-racists, far-right in city clashes


LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned ‘‘racist thuggery’’ after far-right protesters clashed in London with anti-racist demonstrators with police trying to keep the sides apart.

Fights broke out between groups outside Waterloo station on Saturday, with fireworks thrown before police cordoned off areas. On a nearby bridge, stones were lobbed at police. Sporadic skirmishes continued in parts of the city centre.

‘‘Racist thuggery has no place on our streets,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘Anyone attacking our police will be met with the full force of the law.’’

About 3000 supporters of groups, including Britain First and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, descended on London they said on a mission to protect the statue of Winston Churchill and the Cenotaph.

In Trafalgar Square, far-right groups shouted racial slurs at the anti-racism protesters, and some tried to use metal crash barriers to break through police lines.

Violence spilled over from Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park, as the far-right groups sought out Black Lives Matters protesters. Missiles were thrown at riot police amid football chants of ‘‘Ingerland, Ingerland, Ingerland’’ – as some in the crowd gave Nazi salutes near the Cenotaph.

Police arrested more than 100 people for offences including violent disorder and assault on police; six officers received minor injuries. Fifteen people were treated by the ambulance service.

In a brief respite to the animosity after the clashes near Waterloo, pictures showed a man identified by the crowd as a far-right protester being carried to safety by a Black Lives Matter protester.

In London, demonstrators numbered fewer on Saturday than in recent days, after announcements by far-right groups that they would converge on the city centre.

Statues of historical figures including Churchill were boarded up to prevent them from becoming flashpoints or being defaced by protesters who say such monuments celebrate racists.

In and around Parliament Square, hundreds of people wearing football shirts, describing themselves as patriots, gathered alongside military veterans to guard the Cenotaph war memorial.

‘‘Winston Churchill, he’s one of our own,’’ they also chanted, near the statue of the World War II leader, which last weekend was sprayed with graffiti reading: ‘‘Churchill was a racist.’’

In Paris, thousands protested on Saturday in the latest demonstration accusing the police of racism and excessive violence.

The demonstration was called by Assa Traore, whose brother Adama, a young black man, died in disputed circumstances after his arrest by gendarmes in 2016 in a town north of Paris.

Many of the mostly young, racially mixed crowd – estimated by police to be 15,000 strong – bore placards with slogans from the US Black Lives Matter movement.

‘‘I’m here to support the Traore family,’’ one young black protester, a security guard who gave his name as Jonys, said. ‘‘It could have been my brother or my sister. It could have been anyone.’’

Reuters, with Telegraph, London; DPA