Pictures show police officers guarding the memorial in London’s Parliament Square after it was defaced with neon green graffiti on the 76th anniversay of D-Day. Piers Morgan tweeted his fury, saying: “Memo to protestors in Westminster today: defacing Sir Winston Churchill’s statue on the 76th anniversary of D-Day is not a good way to make your point.”
While other pictures show protestors climbing the memorial and holding placards.
Thousands of people on Saturday ignored Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s plea not to gather during lockdown as they joined Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
Many wore masks and social distancing measures were encouraged during events in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Sheffield and Newcastle, among other cities.
Police stand near the defaced memorial
The statue was vandalised with neon green graffiti
At Friday’s coronavirus news briefing, Mr Hancock warned people against joining the demonstrations this weekend, pointing out “we’re still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat”.
But people wanted to show solidarity with those in the US campaigning against police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
They also highlighted incidents when black and ethnic minority people in Britain have been victims of racial discrimination and violence at the hands of police and others.
In London, most demonstrators who gathered in Parliament Square wore masks and face coverings, with some opting for gloves.
Protestors climb atop the statue
Placards carried by demonstrators referenced the coronavirus crisis, with one saying: “There is a virus greater than Covid-19 and it’s called racism.”
As the rally began, one organiser used a megaphone to tell the crowds: “We are not here for violence.
“Today is sheer positivity, today is sheer love.”
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Thousands took the streets to protest for the Black Lives Matter rally
Police clash with protestors in London
Protester Bobbi, 26, from Chingford, London, who did not give her last name, said: “We’re literally living in the history books, we’re going to be teaching our future children about this and I want to say I was here to support that.”
Thousands of protesters packed central Manchester. They chanted and clapped in unison and held home-made placards bearing the initials BLM.
Several hundred marchers gathered in Newcastle, while thousands more watched an online protest organised in the north-east of England.
Demonstrators gathering at the Earl Grey Monument in the city centre were handed masks if they did not have one, while hand sanitiser was available.
Dr Christina Mobley, a lecturer who came to Newcastle University from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, attended with her five-year-old daughter.
The historian, who is leading the project to decolonise the university curriculum, said: “I absolutely felt the need to be here today. The organisers have done an amazing job.
“It is really powerful to see such a young, motivated crowd coming out and organising themselves, handing out masks and working with the police.”
She took a photo of one of the police officers who had taken off his helmet during the silence for Mr Floyd.
Meanwhile, an online protest organised by Stand Up To Racism – North East drew an audience of several thousand, who listened to speakers including Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher died in police custody in Hull in 1998.
In Sheffield, hundreds of people gathered on Devonshire Green to protest and hold a minute’s silence.
During the gathering, which included speeches, they chanted: “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”