UK is ‘not a racist country’ says Boris Johnson as he condemns statue removal at Black Lives Matter protest
Boris Johnson condemned the removal of a slave trader statue as an 'act of criminal damage' (PA)
The Prime Minister has rejected suggestions the UK is a racist country after a wave of Black Live Matters protests across the weekend.
Boris Johnson also condemned the attacks on police officers during the demonstrations and called the removal of a statue of a slave trader an “act of criminal damage”.
His official spokesman said he “recognises the strength of feeling” in response to George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, but said in relation to the removal of the monument to Edward Colston in Bristol “there is a democratic process which needs to be followed”.
Asked if Mr Johnson agreed with the claim by many of those who have taken to the streets that the UK is racist, Number 10 said: “We have made significant progress on racism in this country.
“But the PM accepts that there is still more to do and that we cannot be complacent about our efforts to stamp out racism and discrimination.”
Pressed to answer yes or no on the matter, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “No. The PM doesn’t doubt that there continues to be discrimination and racism - but does not agree that this is a racist country.
“We have made very significant progress on this issue but there remains more to do.”
It comes after Mr Johnson was criticsed for his tweet suggesting the overwhelmingly peaceful protests at the weekend were "subverted by thuggery”.
Quizzed on which parts of the protest he was referring to, his spokesman said: “There were a significant number of injuries to police officers over the course of the weekend.
"I think the Met[ropolitan Police] commissioner has set out that the Met has had over 30 officers reporting injuries in the protests yesterday - and there have also been incidents of criminal damage which have been reported.”
He added: “The PM is talking about attacks which have taken place against officers, police officers suffering injuries, projectiles being hurled at officers as they try to do their job, and also acts of criminal damage.
“It’s never acceptable to commit acts of violence against police officers as they seek to carry out their work protecting the public.”
And, asked if Mr Johnson understood the anger behind those who removed the Colston statue, the spokesman said: “The PM's view is that in this country where there is strong opinion there is a democratic process which needs to be followed.
“People can campaign for the removal of statues, but what happened yesterday was a criminal act, and when criminal law is broken that is unacceptable and the police will want to hold to account those responsible."