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Far-right groups blamed for clash with London police

A group is shown gathering Saturday at the Cenotaph war memorial in London where violent clashes occurred between anti-Black Lives Matter protesters and police. Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE
A group is shown gathering Saturday at the Cenotaph war memorial in London where violent clashes occurred between anti-Black Lives Matter protesters and police. Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE

June 13 (UPI) -- Counterprotesters who said they wanted to protect statues from Black Lives Matter activists clashed with police Saturday in London's Parliament Square while similar demonstrations took place throughout the rest of Britain.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan blamed the violent protests in the capital on "far-right groups."

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Video footage showed counterprotesters to the Black Lives Matter movement hurling cans, glass bottles and smoke canisters at London police, blockading White Hall.

British news organizations The Guardian and BBC reported that protesters were drinking alcohol and chanting "All lives matter," saying they wanted to protect statues from BLM activists.

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French police also clashed with activists Saturday, deploying tear gas against protesters who tried to go forward with a march that was banned.

About 15,000 protesters gathered in Paris under the banner "Justice for Adama," in honor of Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in French police custody in 2016.

The gathering was allowed, but police prevented demonstrators from marching to the Opera area, out of concern for area businesses.

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Anti-racism activists have toppled statues of slave traders, and U.S. Confederate and colonialist figures in the United States and Britain in recent days as part of protests sparked by the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

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BLM organizers said they called off their event Saturday to avoid clashes with far-right demonstrators.

The counterprotesters gathered around the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall and a boarded-up statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square before moving to Trafalgar Square, where fireworks were thrown across the crowds.

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Police attempted to stop the counterdemonstrators from getting to Hyde Park where a largely peaceful BLM protest was taking place.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds tweeted that the attacks on police after Whitehall was blocked off, were "completely unacceptable."

MP Prit Patel also took to Twitter to condemn the attacks.

"Any perpetrators of vandalism should expect to face the full force of the law," Patel tweeted. "Violence toward our police officers will not be tolerated."

Patel also advised demonstrators to go home in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Coronavirus remains a threat to us all," she added. "Go home to stop the spread of the virus and save lives."

In Bristol, anti-BLM demonstrators shouted "scum" and "fascists" at BLM supporters. A man also climbed on top of a base for a statue of slave trader Edward Colston that BLM supporters tore down last week. The statue had been in Bristol city center for more than 100 years.

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Meanwhile, in Newcastle city center, activists from Stand Up to Racism North East, encouraged protesters to observe social distancing and wear face masks during a protest in solidarity with the BLM movement.

A counterprotest by the group Defenders of Newcastle also took place in the city center with heavy police presence.

Peaceful BLM protests took place in Canterbury where the Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, bishop of Dover, addressed the crowd.

"Let's together, in harmony, make the change that needs to happen," she said.

Peaceful protests against systemic racism also took place in Newington Green in London.

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Demonstrators hold a sign in Los Angeles on June 14 for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police in her home while she was sleeping. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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