PM condemns threat of vandalism against Parliament Square’s Churchill statue
Prime minister Boris Johnson has called it “absurd and shameful” that Parliament Square’s statue of Winston Churchill has had to be boarded up after it was deemed to be “at risk” of being vandalised by anti-racism protesters.
Anti-racism protests have been taking place worldwide, sparked by the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd in the US, who was killed after a police officer restrained him and held a knee down on his neck for several minutes.
Protesters have already defaced the Churchill statue with graffiti, which suggested that the UK’s war-time leader was “a racist”.
It is not the first monument to have come under threat, after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down in Bristol and thrown into the city’s harbour by protesters.
Johnson said in a statement that Churchill had expressed views on race which are now “unacceptable” but stressed that he was a “hero” nonetheless for fighting fascism.
The PM said: "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.
"It is absurd and shameful that this national monument should today be at risk of attack by violent protesters. Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial.
"We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations."
Johnson also took the opportunity to remind protesters of their responsibilities to socially distance during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the “responsible course of action” would be to “stay away” from anti-racism protests, while conceding that he understood “legitimate feelings of outrage.”
Johnson said: “As for the planned demonstrations, we all understand the legitimate feelings of outrage at what happened in Minnesota and the legitimate desire to protest against discrimination.
“Whatever progress this country has made in fighting racism - and it has been huge - we all recognise that there is much more work to do.
“But it is clear that the protests have been sadly hijacked by extremists intent on violence. The attacks on the police and indiscriminate acts of violence which we have witnessed over the last week are intolerable and they are abhorrent.”
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has criticised London mayor Sadiq Khan and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick over the decision to board up the statue, calling on both to resign.
Bridgen said: "Churchill’s famous words 'We will never surrender' is completely undermined by London mayor Sadiq Kahn’s appeasement of the mob.
"It’s a national humiliation, Sadiq Kahn must resign and so should Cressida Dick."
Khan has said that he is working with the Metropolitan Police to ensure that any memorials deemed to be at risk are protected, and has called on Londoners not to take part in demonstrations over the weekend.