Earlier, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan was slammed by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for a decision to cover up the monument to Winston Churchill in Parliament Square and accused of “surrendering” the capital’s streets “to the mob” ahead of anti-racism protests slated for Saturday.
According to new plans being considered by UK MPs, demonstrators who vandalise war memorials could be slapped with prison sentences of up to ten years, reported The Sunday Telegraph.
The proposals to simplify the procedure of prosecuting those who target the monuments are believed to be discussed by Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and Suella Braverman, the Attorney General.
The outlet writes that talks were launched after 125 Conservative MPs supported a new Desecration of War Memorials Bill, which makes it illegal to damage any physical tribute to those who died in a war.
London Black Lives Matter Protest June 13 2020
The legislation is set to be introduced in the House of Commons on 23 June by backbenchers Jonathan Gullis – the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, and James Sunderland – a former Army officer.
The current plans under consideration by MPs come as a statue of Winston Churchill, the Cenotaph in Parliament Square and a monument to Nelson Mandela were shrouded in protective scaffolding earlier ahead of Black Lives Matter protests that have spilled over from the US, where they were triggered by the 25 May death of African American man George Floyd.
The demonstrations in the UK are represented as a show of solidarity with anti-police brutality protests in America and to protest police violence and racism in the United Kingdom.
The measures were set in place by London Mayor Sadiq Khan ahead of predicted clashed over the weekend between Black Lives Matter protesters and those in the “pro-statue” camp.
‘Marches Subverted by Violence’
The events that took place in London on Saturday resulted on over 100 people being arrested, according to the Met Police, cited by the BBC.
As thousands of people arrived from across the UK, claiming they intended to protect statues from anti-racism activists, events in some places took a violent turn in Trafalgar Square and at Waterloo station, as police in riot gear were pelted, kicked and punched after a 5 pm curfew was set by authorities.
The Met Police Federation condemned the violence as “unacceptable”, tweeting its officers “do not come to work to face this level of violence and abuse”.
AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth
A masked protester walks as British police officers in riot gear escort him and others away in central London, as groups gather to counter-protest against a Black Lives Matter demonstration, Saturday, June 13, 2020.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to the events by tweeting his condemnation of “racist thuggery” and deploring that the “marches…have been subverted by violence”.
Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law. These marches & protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 13, 2020
Earlier, organisers from the Black Lives Matter movement had urged people to avoid rallies planned for the weekend over fears of clashes.
Separately, several peaceful demonstrations by anti-racism protesters took place in London and across the UK.
‘Surrendering to the Mob’
Earlier, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan was accused of “surrendering” the capital’s streets “to the mob” for his order on Thursday to board up the monument to Winston Churchill at Parliament Square and the nearby Cenotaph statue ahead of anti-racism protests set for Saturday.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel took a broadside at the mayor, urging the statue to Churchill be “liberated” from its protective scaffolding.
“We should free Churchill, a hero of our nation, who fought against fascism and racism in this country and Europe,” said the minister.
The London mayor had decided to place a protective box over the bronze statue to Winston Churchill after it was vandalised during anti-racism protests the previous weekend, with the words ‘was a racist’ spray-painted on it.
Boris Johnson had deplored the “absurd and shameful” attacks on the statue of Churchill and said the UK “cannot lie about its history”.
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. 1/8
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 12, 2020