Police Warn London Protesters To Be Off The Streets By 5pm

There are fears of clashes between anti-racism protesters and far-right activists during demonstrations on Saturday afternoon.

Protesters planning to take part in demonstrations in central London on Saturday have been warned by police to disperse by 5pm amid fears of clashes between groups.

The Metropolitan Police have also warned Black Lives Matter protesters to adhere to the planned route, which runs from Hyde Park and Whitehall.

There are serious concerns that large groups of far-right protesters from across the country are planning to attend to counter the anti-racism rally and “defend” statues in the wake of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston being toppled on Sunday in Bristol.

Black Lives Matter organisers have officially called off the planned 1pm protest in Hyde Park amid fears of clashes with the far-right, The Guardian reported, but thousands of people are still expected to attend.

A separate event, ‘Antifascists support Black Lives Matter’, is still due to go ahead early on Saturday afternoon.

According to anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, football gangs from West Ham, Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspurs, Hull and Chelsea were among the groups planning to attend the protests. Britain First has also said its members will take part in counter-demonstrations.

Protesters and counter-demonstrators will be split by police in Whitehall with a barrier, with the conditions – including the curfew and route restrictions – imposed under section 12 of the Public Order Act.

Metropolitan Police commander Bas Javid, brother of former chancellor Sajid, said he understood “why people want to make their voices heard”, but urged protesters not to put their own health, as well as that of their friends and family, at risk by gathering in large groups against the government’s coronavirus advice.

He continued: “We all saw the crowds that came together last weekend, and the demonstration on the whole was peaceful and reinforced the legitimacy of feelings within our communities.

“However on both days, there was a minority intent on disorder, which resulted in incidents of violence and criminal behaviour, and assaults against our officers. This cannot be tolerated.

“As part of the ongoing policing operation ahead of tomorrow’s demonstrations, we continually monitor information available to us. 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.

“If you were planning to come to London, I again would urge you to reconsider, but if you are still intent, please familiarise yourself with what the conditions are. Please keep yourself safe by complying with government guidance on social distancing.”

Home secretary Priti Patel tweeted on Saturday morning, urging protestors to stay away from central London in order to limit the risks associated with the ongoing “unprecedented national health emergency.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has accused Priti Patel of seeking to score “political points” after she criticised his decision to board up statutes in London.

“She needs to see the intelligence that we have seen that the far right are intending to come to central London,” the city’s mayor told the Today programme.

“One of their justifications for doing so is to protect these statues but also they are intending to remove statues of people like Nelson Mandela, so I think we have done the wise, precautionary thing.

“Rather than seeking to make political points out of this, what I hope is that central government would work with regional government and the police to make sure there isn’t violence, vandalism or disorder or inadvertently the spreading of the virus.”

Khan also added that there were concerns the statues could become a “flashpoint for violence” if rival protesters converged on them.

“We had intelligence that extreme far-right groups are coming to central London, ostensibly they say to protect the statues,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“We think that these statues may be a flashpoint for violence and we are worried about extreme far-right groups getting involved in violence, vandalism, disorder with those protesting as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“That is one of the reasons I am asking people to stay away from central London.

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