LONDON: Home Secretary Priti Patel has condemned a “lawless minority of protesters” who “regrettably turned to violence”, adding: “This hooliganism is utterly indefensible.”
In a statement to Parliament on Monday, the home secretary said 137,500 people had attended more than 200 protests across the UK over the weekend. She said 135 people had been arrested in total, while 35 police officers had been injured since protests began.
She was challenged by a Labour MP Florence Eshalomi, who asked her whether she recognised the “structural inequality, discrimination and racism” in the UK and called on her to act.
But Ms Patel said she would “not take lectures” from others about racism, and gave examples of the racist abuse she had personally received, including facing racial slurs in the playground and on the streets, and being advised to use her husband’s surname in order to advance her career.
The home secretary was also repeatedly urged by MPs to support the removal of statues of individuals involved in the slave trade, with the Labour MP Zarah Sultana telling the Commons: “Statues of racist murderers like Colston can be found in cities across Britain.
“So, I ask the home secretary a simple question: does she believe it is right that black Britons have to walk in the shadows of statues glorifying people who enslaved and murdered their ancestors, yes or no?”
In response, Ms Patel, however, said: “I hope [Ms Sultana] will join me in lobbying Labour councils across the country – where they’ve been in charge for many, many years – to bring about the changes that black, Asian and ethnic minority people would like to see.”
Shecondemned the actions of anti-racism protesters who clashed with police and tore down a statue of a slave trader as “shameful”, warning: “You will face justice.”
Ms Patel said Covid-19 restrictions made protesting in large numbers “illegal” and urged people not to attend. She said: “As the ugly tally of officer assaults show, some protesters regrettably turned to violence and abusive behaviour at the weekend. This hooliganism is utterly indefensible. There is no justification for it.