Demonstrators gather for third weekend of Black Lives Matter protests

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in anti-racism protests across the UK.

Black Lives Matter protests
Black Lives Matter protests

Demonstrators have gathered for a third weekend of Black Lives Matter protests in London amid a heavy police presence.

Scores of protesters assembled at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, where activists addressed crowds, before they marched to Parliament Square and then down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square.

Up to 14 police vans were on hand, with Scotland Yard earlier warning previous protests have been marred by a “small minority intent on violence” after more than 100 officers were assaulted in recent weeks.

Black Lives Matter protests
People during the Black Lives Matter rally in Hyde Park (Aaron Chown/PA)

But the protests appeared good-natured, with no signs of opposing groups, although a reminder of last weekend’s clashes were visible as barriers to separate anti-racism demonstrators from far-right counter protesters were still in place.

Thousands have taken to the streets in anti-racism protests across the UK, sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in the US last month.

One demonstrator, who gave her name only as Victoria, told the PA news agency: “Before coming to the protests I was seeing everything online – all these videos of police brutality and it makes you so angry and makes you consider your own feelings about racism.”

The 23-year-old, who has been to two previous BLM demonstrations, said: “When I come to these protests it is such a release, it almost feels like peace – you have family, you have people who want to understand and it’s like a community.”

Another demonstrator, 23-year-old Tash, described her experience of racism growing up in London, she said: “I’ve been asked what slave country I come from – in all seriousness – and I just think: How do I respond to that?”

Organiser Imarn Ayton called for the removal of Munira Mirza, who is playing a major role in setting up the PM’s commission on racial disparity, in a speech to crowds.

Ms Mirza has been heavily criticised for describing structural racism as “more of a perception than a reality”.

A total of 10 people have now been charged with offences in connection with the BLM protests and far-right counter demonstrations in London over the past three weekends, Scotland Yard said.

The Metropolitan Police has now released images of a total of 48 suspects they want to speak to in connection with violence at the protests, with police pelted with missiles, smoke grenades, glass bottles and flares.

A fresh appeal for 13 new suspects was made on Saturday afternoon, with Scotland Yard saying the suspects are believed to have been involved in racist abuse and serious violence against the public and police.

Black Lives Matter protests
George Floyd’s death in the US has triggered protests around the world, including across the UK (Aaron Chown/PA)

Recent events have been triggered by the death of Mr Floyd, who died after a white police officer held him down by pressing his knee into his neck for almost nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.

Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray said: “Whilst the vast majority of people who have attended demonstrations over the past few weeks were not violent, there have a small minority intent on violence against our officers and others, and this is completely unacceptable and we are working hard to bring offenders to justice.

“Officers will be making arrests if there is violence.”

The organisation that represents rank-and-file police officers in England and Wales has called on the Home Secretary to ban all protests while the threat of Covid-19 remains.

Police Federation chairman John Apter said Priti Patel must be “unequivocal” in stating that large gatherings are not allowed.

But Downing Street said any ban is an “operational matter” for senior officers to apply to the Home Secretary for.

Separately, anti-racism protesters gathered in Glasgow City Centre on Saturday despite being warned to stay away by police.

The city’s George Square has been the scene of clashes in recent weeks, with far-right groups organising counter-protests to “protect statues”.

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