Campaigners fear far-right 'defence' of statues
Far-right demonstrators are expected to travel hundreds of miles to "defend" memorials at the weekend, campaigners have said.
There are concerns that hundreds are to attend a "patriotic unity" event at Winston Churchill’s statue in Westminster on Saturday morning, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests.
The far-right activist Tommy Robinson and political group Britain First are among those supporting a "defend our memorials" event.
One campaign group, Hope Not Hate, said that coaches had been booked to take demonstrators from as far as north-east England.
Joe Mulhall, from Hope Not Hate, said that "this time the police need to take the danger seriously" and warned the possibility of conflict on the streets, if BLM protesters or other anti-facist groups turned up to present a counter-demonstration.
Police sources said that the Met would decide how it would respond over the next 24 hours. A spokesperson for the force added: "We’re aware of a number of protests due to take place."
Some fear that police could be put in the difficult situation of having to keep two sets of protesters apart while trying to maintain public order.
Saturday’s Churchill statue protest is organised by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA), a organisation that was formed in response to the 2017 terrorist attacks in Britain.
Tommy Robinson and the Britain First leader, Paul Golding, posted videos online criticising the police of losing grip on the BLM protesters last week. The growing tensions prompted a standoff in the Hertfordshire town of Hoddesdon on Monday, where a group made Nazi salutes and shouted: “Why don’t you go back to Africa?” at a BLM protest.
Many far-right campaigners have urged their members not to only focus on London on Saturday. One called for activists to gather at other monuments associated with slavery being targeted by BLM campaigners from Dundee to Plymouth.
Unmesh Desai, the Labour London assembly spokesman for policing and crime, has reached out to all professional football clubs based in London, to ask them not to go ahead with the planned protest.
"I now urge your club to use its widespread influence and publicly denounce the plans of the DFLA and other far-right groups to disrupt and attempt to sabotage the BLM protests," he said.