STEPHEN GLOVER: Pain, anarchy and destruction that dishonour the memory of George Floyd
A young female police officer was flung violently into traffic lights outside Downing Street on Saturday evening after a demonstrator hurled a missile at her horse. The animal bolted riderless down Whitehall, careering into a blameless woman protester and a lamppost.
Groups of men hurled two ‘Boris bikes’ at police horses, startling the terrified animals. Flares were thrown over the security gates into Downing Street. Bottles and other missiles were tossed at riot squad officers as they emerged from behind the gates.
Yesterday criminality extended to Bristol, where a mob ripped down a statue of Edward Colston, a philanthropist and slave trader who died almost exactly 300 years ago. He was a man whose actions obviously can’t be defended, but the destruction of his monument was nonetheless an act of vandalism.
A young female police officer was flung violently into traffic lights outside Downing Street on Saturday evening after a demonstrator hurled a missile at her horse (pictured)
As protests continued in London yesterday, the female police officer was recovering in hospital with a collapsed lung, broken collarbone and shattered ribs. Thirteen other officers were injured in Saturday’s clashes — to add to the 13 hurt in earlier protests last week.
What cruel madness is this? It’s true that only a small minority of the demonstrators turned to violence, but by their conduct they disfigured the entire protest, whose purpose was to object to the abominable killing of George Floyd, an American black man, two weeks ago.
In which decent moral universe is it thought reasonable to attack British police officers in retaliation for the murder of an innocent black man by a psychopathic white American policeman in a city 4,000 miles away?
But it’s not only the violent agitators fomenting division who were at fault. Although, of course, their transgression was much less serious, all those who went peacefully on marches in London and other British cities over the weekend were behaving selfishly and irresponsibly. Every one of them was breaking the law.
I realise many were wearing masks, but they provide only a limited defence against infection. All these demonstrations constituted the kind of mass gatherings that have been prohibited during the lockdown because they are known to spread Covid-19.
More people will become infected, and some could die, as a result of these demos. The protesters were not merely taking a risk on their own behalf. Their actions could give the contagion a boost just when it seems finally to be under control.
Particularly appalling were pictures of demonstrators addressing or abusing police officers to their faces, while sometimes photographing them on their smartphones. God knows why most of the police weren’t wearing masks, but they weren’t. Some may have been infected by exchanges at such close quarters.
Groups of men hurled two ‘Boris bikes’ at police horses, startling the terrified animals (pictured)
Those who went on these marches will think they were in the service of a noble cause — to decry the suffocation of an innocent black man at the hands of the police, which they believe characterised a wider brutality that stretches beyond American shores.
The truth is that one undoubted injustice is not in any way ameliorated by outbreaks of violence and anti-social behaviour. One harm has been met with more pain and destruction, which dishonours rather than burnishes the memory of George Floyd.
And what has the Labour Party said? Two weeks ago, following the Guardian’s and the Daily Mirror’s revelations, it was in the forefront of those criticising Dominic Cummings for his infractions of the lockdown. Rightly so.
But in response to the deliberate flouting of the lockdown by thousands, Labour has been almost silent. One of their number, the irrepressibly preachy MP Barry Gardiner, joined a demonstration outside Parliament last week in which little, if any, social distancing was observed.
Nor, one should add, have the Mirror and Guardian climbed the same high horse from which they criticised Mr Cummings. Far from it. Some Guardian columnists have fostered division. One of them, Afua Hirsch, wrote an incendiary piece in which she claimed that the racism which killed George Floyd ‘is a system that Britain built here’.
This is what the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters are alleging — that Britain is a fundamentally racist society. Little evidence is adduced. I heard one of the organisers of Saturday’s London demonstration feebly allege that the higher rate of Covid-19 fatalities among BAME people was proof of innate racism.
Only a myopic person would deny there is some racism in Britain. Tonight on BBC1, there is a moving drama inspired by the Windrush scandal about Anthony Bryan, who after 50 years in Britain was wrongly detained by the Home Office, and threatened with deportation. To its credit, the Guardian broke the Windrush story in 2018.
Granted that there are pockets of institutional racism in our country, I believe the widespread horror reflected across the political spectrum when the outrage first came to light suggests quite the opposite — that Britain is not a racist society.
Yesterday criminality extended to Bristol, where a mob ripped down a statue of Edward Colston (pictured), a philanthropist and slave trader who died almost exactly 300 years ago
To imply, as the protesters and their divisive journalistic cheerleaders do, that Britain is irredeemably racist — well, that is an insult to the many millions of Britons of every colour who co-exist tolerantly and peaceably with their fellow citizens.
Furthermore, the measured reaction of put-upon police officers on Saturday shows that, for all their shortcomings, our police are generally not brutish. Their American counterparts sometimes are — to whites as well as blacks, as shocking footage of police in Buffalo pushing an elderly white man to the ground last Thursday attests.
Yet what does truth matter to those who sow discord? We are in the midst of an emergency. We face scary economic challenges. This is the most ill-chosen moment imaginable for conflict and violence and self-indulgent behaviour.
I’m sure many protesters are fair-minded people. They are doubtless frustrated by weeks of lockdown, and many have time on their hands as they are not working, or attending school or university.
But these increasingly anarchic demonstrations, tenuously linked to the horrible murder of a black man far away, are serving only to drive us apart in the middle of a national crisis.
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