Priti Patel reads riot act to Bristol police chief

Priti Patel reads riot act to police chief who ALLOWED protesters to tear down statue of slaver Edward Colston during Black Lives Matter rally in Bristol

  • The Home Secretary is demanding the culprits of toppling face prosecution 
  • She had ‘firm’ conversation with Avon and Somerset chief constable Andy Marsh
  • She ordered explanation as to why constables did not intervene to stop vandals

Priti Patel has read the riot act to the Bristol police chief whose officers failed to stop Black Lives Matter protesters ripping down a slave trader’s statue.

The Home Secretary is demanding the culprits face prosecution as she doubles down her zero tolerance approach to wanton criminality during the demonstrations. 

She stamped down her authority during a ‘firm’ conversation with Avon and Somerset chief constable Andy Marsh yesterday.

The minister, who has burnished a tough reputation for law and order during her political career, ordered an explanation as to why constables did not intervene to stop the vandals, according to the Times. 

Anti-racism campaigners toppled a memorial to 17th century slave trader Edward Colston before tossing it into the city’s harbour on Friday.

Anti-racism campaigners toppled a memorial to 17th century slave trader Edward Colston before tossing it into the harbour on Friday in Bristol 


Priti Patel has given a dressing down to the Bristol police chief whose officers failed to stop Black Lives Matter protesters ripping down a slave trader’s statue

In a video message posted yesterday afternoon, Chief Constable Marsh said officers held off making arrests to avoid a ‘very violent confrontation’.

The senior ranking officer added: ‘Can you imagine the scenes of police in Bristol fighting with protester who were damaging the statue of a man who is reputed to have gathered much of his fortune during the slave trade. 

‘I think there would have been very serious implications. And while I do not condone crime in any sort, I fully support the actions of my officers. 

‘They responded with common sense, sound judgement and in the best interests of public safety.’

Ms Patel’s direct conversation with Chief Constable Marsh raised eyebrows as individual forces are independent of Whitehall and are held to account by locally elected police and crime commissioners. 

Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd

The empty plinth where the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol once stood after it was taken down during a Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday

The Home Office did not comment on the Home Secretary’s alleged conversation with the police chief.

But the minister has vowed to come down hard on ‘thugs’ who have ‘subverted’ George Floyd marches in cities across the UK. 

It followed riotous scenes in Westminster last week where hooligans hijacked a peaceful rally to hurl bottles and bikes at constables, of whom 62 suffered injuries.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, she condemned the ‘lawless minority of protesters’ and vowed that ‘justice will follow’.

The Prime Minister weighed in behind his minister and yesterday said anyone who harmed police or property would face ‘the full force of the law’. 

Ms Patel, of Ugandan-Indian origin, also swatted away accusations the government did not understand racism by recalling how she was often called a p*ki at school and told to change her surname to advance her career.

Activists stand around the Churchill statue yesterday after it was daubed in graffiti during the Black Lives Matter protests

A protestor lights a flair next to The Cenotaph during a Black Lives Matter protest in response to the death of American George Floyd on Saturday

The Home Secretary confirmed 137,500 people had attended more than 200 rallies at the weekend, at which a total 135 had been arrested, but none at the Bristol rally where the statue was toppled. 

During the Westminster rallies last week, some of the 15,000 protesters scrawled graffiti on the statue of wartime PM Winston Churchill and the Cenotaph memorial on Whitehall.

It has sparked a heated debate over whether – and how – certain historical statues should be pulled down.

More anti-racism demonstrations are planned in London today as George Floyd is laid to rest in the US. 

Mr Floyd, who died after a police officer in Minneapolis restrained him by holding a knee on his neck, will be buried in his home town of Houston in Texas.

A symbolic and socially distanced commemoration is planned at the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square in London at 5pm, organised by Stand Up To Racism.

Boris Johnson said the killing had awakened an ‘incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice’ worldwide.  

The Prime Minister – who had previously condemned the ‘thuggery’ by a minority that marred some demonstrations – acknowledged many of the activists’ concerns were ‘founded on a cold reality’.

He said leaders ‘simply can’t ignore’ concerns that black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) groups face discrimination in education, employment and in law.

In the video statement released by Downing Street on Monday evening he said: ‘In this country and around the world his (Mr Floyd’s) dying words – I can’t breathe – have awakened an anger and a widespread and incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination: in education, in employment, in the application of the criminal law.

‘And we who lead and who govern simply can’t ignore those feelings because in too many cases, I am afraid, they will be founded on a cold reality.’

Still, the PM said those who harmed police or property would face ‘the full force of the law’. 

He added he could not condone people breaking social distancing rules aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which he acknowledged was disproportionately harming Bame communities.

‘So no, I will not support those who flout the rules on social distancing, for the obvious reason that we risk a new infection at a critical time and just as we have made huge progress,’ he said.

The Mayor of London flagged further progress on Tuesday morning when he announced the city’s landmarks would be reviewed to ensure they reflect the capital’s diversity.

Sadiq Khan said the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will review the city’s landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – and consider which legacies should be celebrated before making recommendations.

Meanwhile, Stand Up To Racism co-convenor Sabby Dhalu said of Tuesday evening’s planned commemoration in London: ‘The uprising of black communities and others against racism since (George) Floyd was killed must lead to transformation against racial discrimination. We demand justice.’  

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