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Boris Johnson has said it was “absurd and shameful” that the statue of Sir Winston Churchill was “at risk of attack” from protesters.
In a long Twitter thread posted on Friday, the prime minister added: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past.”
A protective box has been erected around the statue Churchill in Parliament Square, while scaffolding and boards have been put up around the Cenotaph after the monuments were targeted last weekend.
The protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, saw some clashes between protesters and police in London, while in Bristol a statue of Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped in the harbour.
Johnson said: “The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny.
“It is absurd and shameful that this national monument should today be at risk of attack by violent protesters. Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial.
“We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations.
“They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history and impoverish the education of generations to come.”
Johnson added that the “only responsible action” was to stay away from planned protests this weekend.
“As for the planned demonstrations, we all understand the legitimate feelings of outrage at what happened in Minnesota and the legitimate desire to protest against discrimination,” he added.
“Whatever progress this country has made in fighting racism – and it has been huge – we all recognise that there is much more work to do.
“But it is clear that the protests have been sadly hijacked by extremists intent on violence. The attacks on the police and indiscriminate acts of violence which we have witnessed over the last week are intolerable and they are abhorrent.
“The only responsible course of action is to stay away from these protests.”
It comes after Black Lives Matter (BLM) organisers 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.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has 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.
Reports suggested violent 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 caught 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 people 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).