It’s been difficult for all of us looking at on at the division that we’ve seen through protests in major cities this weekend. Some of the scenes have been absolutely appalling and have lead to Police officers being hospitalized. To be totally blunt, I do not care what the cause may be or how virtuous some may think it is, there is never an excuse for this kind of violence and criminal damage. There is never an excuse for attacking innocent Police Officers who have put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. It’s particularly concerning at this time because of course we all have our fears about the resurgence of coronavirus, which can only be made worse by mass gatherings of thousands of people like the scenes we saw this weekend.
George’s Floyd’s death is a tragedy and nobody wants to see racism in our country. These things are clear. Fighting against racism is the basis for so many high profile campaigns in the UK – ‘Give Racism the Red Card’ or ‘Stand Up To Racism’ have managed to be effective and well known voices on this issue for a long time, and they’ve managed to do it without desecrating the cenotaph or trying to set fire to British flags.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the cause, but I have none whatsoever with a Black Lives Matter campaign that promotes violence and thuggery. I have none whatsoever for a campaign that falsely suggests that the actions of Police in the USA are somehow related to the actions of our unarmed British officers, when the statistics tell us that this is simply not true. I have no sympathy for people who say they are fighting against fascism by attacking the statue of Winston Churchill, a man without whom the fascists would have won, and I have no sympathy for those who think that criminal damage is acceptable in any circumstances.
I expect the full force of the law to be used to bring the people who have done these things to justice, and I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister and Home Secretary say that they expect this too.
This has been an incredibly challenging time for so many people. Through the lockdown people will have lost loved ones, missed seeing them, or lost their jobs and livelihoods. Government and our local services have done a huge amount to protect people, but many have still suffered. We’re looking now at the light at the end of the tunnel, where we can ease restrictions and begin to release people from some of that suffering, but this is only made harder by gatherings like these protests. The risk of infection is only made higher. As a country we have always pulled together in times of crisis, and I am so deeply disappointed in those who have chosen to put their fellow citizens at risk in recent days.