Anti-racism demonstrators are holding a fourth weekend of protests across the United Kingdom, despite a ban on large gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Demonstrations were taking place on Saturday in cities including London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
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Hundreds assembled for a socially distanced Say No to Racism rally in Glasgow’s George Square, where earlier this week members of the far right attacked a refugee-rights gathering.
In Edinburgh, protesters including Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh called for the removal of a statue of Henry Dundas from its column in the city’s St Andrew Square.
The late 18th-century Scottish politician was responsible for delaying Britain’s abolition of the slave trade by 15 years until 1807. During that time, more than half a million enslaved Africans were trafficked across the Atlantic.
Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray urged activists in London to comply with Britain’s coronavirus social distancing rules, which limit groups to a maximum of six people.
“We remain in a health pandemic,” Murray said. “We value democracy and the right for people to have a voice, but would ask people to do so in another way, and not come to London to demonstrate.”
Murray said the police had “been working hard with community leaders” to prevent violence, after officers arrested dozens of anti-racism protesters and right-wing counter-protesters last weekend.
The metropolitan police said on Saturday 24 people were charged with offences including assault, criminal damage and breaching social distancing rules during the recent protests.
Black Lives Matter London rejected calls by the police and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to end the largely peaceful protests, which Johnson claimed had been “hijacked by extremists intent on violence”.
“The UK is far from innocent [in racism], and therefore we must persist by reminding this country and government that Black Lives Matter,” the group said on Saturday.
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from London, said hundreds of people gathered on Saturday in London’s Parliament’s Square near wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s statue.
“There’s a larger group gathered in Hyde Park in London. They’re stressing the need for ideas to keep the momentum behind the movement,” Baba said.
He added that some of the issues raised among demonstrators include the fact the British government is providing “things such as tear gas” to security forces in the US, which in the their opinion, is being used against peaceful protesters.
They were also talking about the need to challenge “racist behaviour and language within the family setting”.
While there was a sense of optimism among protestors, many are demanding that the support for the movement be translated into “real political action”, Baba said.
Hundreds of thousands of people have held mostly peaceful anti-racism protests across Britain since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, urging the UK to confront its own history of imperialism and racial inequality.
After some protesters scuffled with police and defaced Churchill’s statue in London, and demonstrators in Bristol toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston, counter-protesters rallied last week with the stated aim of protecting monuments.
Hundreds of far-right activists clashed on June 13 with police near the Churchill statue in London, which had been boarded up for protection.
Johnson has announced he is setting up a commission to look at what more can be done to eliminate racial injustice, but opponents accuse the Conservative government of opting for talk rather than action.