Priti Patel: No place for far-right thugs in British society

Home Secretary Priti Patel has condemned the actions of those who protested in London at the weekend.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Ms Patel was highly critical of the far-right demonstrators in the capital on Saturday who clashed with police.

“Like all members of this House, I was saddened and sickened at the far-right thugs who came to London this weekend on a so-called mission to protect the statue of Sir Winston Churchill, claiming to want to protect our country’s heritage and yet failing to understand that our country’s heritage is founded on a set of shared values – tolerance, respect for people and property, adherence to the rule of law," she said.

“And those thugs, far from protecting our heritage, did all that they could to destroy and undermine those values.

"There is no place for their sickening conduct and hate in our society.”

Police and demonstrators clashed over the weekend. Credit: PA

Ms Patel said a total of 137 arrests were made on Saturday alone, as counter-demonstrations took place and at least 100 officers were injured, three horses and one police dog.

She said at least 280 arrests have now been made.

One of those arrested on Saturday was Andrew Banks, who was sentenced to two weeks in prison after pleading guilty to outraging public decency having been pictured urinating next to a memorial to Pc Keith Palmer, during the far-right protests.

“As this ugly operational picture demonstrates, many of the so-called protesters came with the deliberate intent of causing harm to those around them and to police officers. This hooliganism is utterly indefensible. There can be no excuse for pelting police officers with missiles," she said.

“Of all the dreadful images to emerge from this weekend, the one of a man desecrating the plaque of Pc Keith Palmer was the most abhorrent.”

Pc Palmer, she said, “made the ultimate sacrifice” during a terror attack “at the heart of our democracy” adding “he will never be forgotten”.

She said: “Sadly backing our world-class police has never been more important.

"The scenes of violence and disorder that we have seen in recent weeks have only underlined the challenges that they face.”

Ms Patel said that the counter-demonstrators in Westminster on Saturday were “patently racist” and were abusive towards police officers.

“They were violent, they were aggressive and abusive towards police officers. They were patently racist. It is right that a good number have been arrested," she added.

Ms Patel said: “In total, over 210,000 people have attended demonstrations across the country following the death of George Floyd.

“At least 160 protests took place this weekend, with the vast majority passing peacefully.

"But counter-demonstrations sparked ugly scenes. On Saturday, 2,000 people attended counter-protests in Westminster with eruptions of violence throughout the day.

“Racist and far-right hooligans clashed with the police and fights broke out. Smoke bombs, glass bottles were lobbed at the police in shameful scenes. Thirty-eight officers were hurt across the country this weekend as they were kicked, punched or pelted with missiles.”

Police deal with a protester. Credit: PA

Ms Patel said the far right in the UK represents a “serious, serious and growing threat”.

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “We mustn’t just dismiss these people, however, just as thugs, because we know that they are organised.

“They have killed before, including… personal friends, not only here in Britain but in Norway as well.”

Responding, Ms Patel said: “This is a serious, serious and growing threat. We have lone actors operating around the world on virtual networks and there is a great deal of work that’s taking place that we can be proud of.”

She added: “We have to be vigilant to protect our people, our country, but also to prevent some terrible atrocity from taking place.”

Police made 137 arrests on Saturday alone. Credit: PA