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Birmingham BLM protesters urged to socially distance after London clashes

UK News | Published:

It comes after thousands of demonstrators in London abandoned the two-metre rule.

Black Lives Matter protests

Birmingham City Council has urged demonstrators to keep two metres apart ahead of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstration in the city centre.

Hundreds have indicated they will attend the rally in Victoria Square from 4pm, including Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings, who told his 109,000 Twitter followers: “Don’t be afraid to speak your truth. Stand for what’s right.”

It comes after pockets of protesters clashed with police as thousands of people flooded into central London and abandoned social distancing for a BLM demonstration on Wednesday in response to the death of George Floyd in the US.

The Metropolitan Police said 13 people were arrested during the protests, which ran into the early hours of Thursday morning.

One man admitted assaulting Nine News Australia TV reporter Sophie Walsh as she was broadcasting about the upcoming protests several hours before they started.

Soofuu Yakr, 26, also admitted possessing cannabis and a screwdriver at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, Scotland Yard said. He will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on June 9.

Ms Walsh was heard screaming on camera during her report and later tweeted she was “shaken but OK”; later, her colleague was filmed abandoning his live broadcast, fleeing as tensions flared up on Whitehall.

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The National Union of Journalists condemned the “escalating attacks on reporters and photographers”, saying “political leaders must do more to stem this spiralling antagonism”.

Meanwhile, a YouGov poll of 5,146 British adults conducted on Thursday found that 44% respondents thought the UK was a “fairly racist” society.

In response to the question “to what extent, if at all, do you think the UK is a racist society?”, some 36% said “not very racist” while 8% responded “very racist”. Some 6% responded it was “not racist at all”.

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West Midlands Police said “we recognise there will be lots of emotions by many people who feel moved by what they saw and want to express their frustrations”.

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Ward said: “Our aim is to allow and facilitate peaceful protest, and therefore we are not going to stop people coming out on to the streets if they’ve got legitimate concerns they want to share.

“You can still protest while maintaining social distancing.”

Birmingham City Council said it supports the BLM movement but urged protesters to keep two metres apart and stay in groups of six or fewer.

After a largely peaceful demonstration in Hyde Park in London on Wednesday, during which Star Wars actor John Boyega gave an impassioned speech, tensions later escalated outside Downing Street.

One officer was pushed to the ground in view of the Houses of Parliament, while another clip showed officers being forced down Whitehall by a group advancing towards them.

Other footage showed objects including signs and a traffic cone being thrown at officers, while plastic and glass bottles were also seen being launched in their direction.

ACC 'saddened', 'frustrated', 'angry', and 'shocked' at death of George Floyd

ACC Matt Ward has expressed the force’s outrage at the death of George Floyd in the US and our commitment to allowing peaceful protests in the West Midlands.We understand that people feel strongly about what has happened and want their voices to be heard.Even though this happened in the US, it also affects how policing is seen on our streets and views on recent publicity into investigations of alleged excessive use of force by some of our officers.We simply ask that protests are carried out peacefully and safely, with regard to social distancing at this current time.More ➡️ bit.ly/3gN2f6t

Posted by West Midlands Police on Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Scotland Yard said two men were arrested at Downing Street on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and violent disorder.

Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter UK called on demonstrators to play music in a “doorstep protest” to highlight the fact that black British people are at higher risk of dying from Covid-19 than white people.

The group wants people to play Jimmy Cliff’s song The Harder They Come from doorsteps and windows at 7pm and for the Government to “investigate the root causes of disparities in health for black people and people of colour”.

Mr Floyd died after a white officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking days of protest in the US.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled and sickened” to see what happened to Mr Floyd, while chief constables from across the UK issued a joint statement saying they “stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified”.

An online-only rally is due to take place this Sunday, campaign group Stand Up to Racism said, with speakers to discuss “how we turn the new wave of anger over racism and injustice into an effective movement for change”.

An online fundraiser for the UK chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement had reached more than £270,000 on Thursday morning, with the funds going to “support black life against institutional racism”.

Black Lives Matter protests
Demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter protest rally outside the gates of Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

Despite rumours circulating on social media that The Cenotaph had been vandalised during the protests, police said they were “not aware of any damage”.

In the US, protests began in Minneapolis where Mr Floyd died, and quickly spread across the country.

Demonstrations have taken place in areas including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, South Carolina and Houston.

Some have included clashes between police and protesters, with officers recorded firing tear gas and rubber bullets on crowds.

US President Donald Trump has pressed state governors to take a more forceful approach against protesters.

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