Frontline officers call for apology after 49 injured in anti-racism protests

Police officers surround the cenotaph in Whitehall, London, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally Credit: .

Frontline police officers have called for an apology from bosses for failing to protect almost 50 colleagues injured over the weekend in the capital’s anti-racism protests.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh called for urgent action from Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and demanded officers are properly equipped.

It comes after police without helmets and shields were pelted with bottles and fireworks in clashes with a small minority of protesters in central London during demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police on horseback in Whitehall at the weekend

Writing in the Evening Standard on Monday, Dame Cressida condemned the attacks, as she revealed 49 officers were injured over the weekend, including a mounted officer seen to fall from her horse on Saturday, adding to 13 hurt last week.

The force arrested more than 60 people for offences including assaulting police officers and criminal damage.

Graffiti was scrawled on the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, while in Bristol protesters toppled the bronze memorial to slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it into the harbour.

On Sunday evening, Boris Johnson tweeted:

Black Lives Matter demonstrations went ahead peacefully for much of Sunday afternoon in London before a number of clashes with police on Whitehall.

Mr Marsh said “enough is enough”, adding:

I shall be calling for urgent action from the Commissioner. And we would expect an official apology from senior leaders to our members for being frankly offered up like this.

Ken Marsh, Metropolitan Police Federation
A worker cleans graffiti from the plinth of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill at Parliament Square

Mr Marsh, whose organisation represents 30,000 rank-and-file officers in London, said the Met’s tactics are “very wrong” and said police should be dealing with disorder “far more robustly”.

Our leaders have to respond and kit us up correctly and make sure we are fully prepared for what is taking place. If bottles and fireworks are being thrown at our police officers, we should have public order equipment on. No ifs. No buts. Our colleagues’ safety should be of paramount importance to our police leaders.

Ken Marsh, Metropolitan Police Federation

Dame Cressida said officers are trained to use “force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary” and condemned violence directed at officers.

I am very proud of the work my officers are carrying out to reassure our communities and to keep the streets of our capital safe and calm. The violent criminality we saw is disgraceful and will have been frightening. Unfortunately some statues and iconic sites have been damaged and we will investigate and seek to identify those responsible. It will never be acceptable to attack police officers, damage property and leave others in fear of their safety. Furthermore, those attending mass gatherings risk exposing themselves and others to this deadly virus.

Cressida Dick, Met Police Commissioner

London Black Lives Matter also organised an online protest via Zoom for those unable to attend the demonstrations, which attracted more than 10,000 people.