George Floyd death: 14 police officers hurt as violence erupts at anti-racism protest in London

6 June 2020, 18:33 | Updated: 7 June 2020, 15:44

The number of assaults on police officers at anti-racism protests is "shocking and unacceptable", Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has said.

After a largely peaceful day of demonstrations against racism across the UK following the killing of George Floyd in the US, a Black Lives Matter protest on Whitehall, outside Downing Street in central London, turned violent on Saturday evening.

Dame Cressida said 14 police officers were injured during the clashes, two seriously - in addition to 13 hurt in earlier protests this week - adding in a statement that there was "no place for violence" in the capital.

"I am deeply saddened and depressed that a minority of protesters became violent towards officers in central London yesterday evening," she said.

Twenty nine people have been arrested "and justice will follow", she continued, adding: "The number of assaults is shocking and completely unacceptable."

She acknowledged many who were seeking to make their voices heard will be as appalled by the scenes as she was.

"Officers displayed extreme patience and professionalism throughout a long and difficult day, and I thank them for that," she said.

"I would urge protesters to please find another way to make your views heard which does not involve coming out on the streets of London, risking yourself, your families and officers as we continue to face this deadly virus."

Sky News correspondent Mark White, who was at the scene, said the atmosphere had started to shift in the area, where around 400 to 500 people had gathered, and then "just after the thunderstorm the crowd started throwing bottles and other objects at the police".

Mounted officers rode down the street at around 6pm to push the protesters back.

A police officer fell from her horse after smashing into a traffic light as the unrest unfolded, while her horse cantered through the crowd.

The force said the officer was taken to hospital where she underwent surgery, and her injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

"The officer fell from her horse, and we are examining the full circumstances of what took place," it said.

It added that the horse, which was uninjured, made its own way back to its nearby stables.

The clashes on Whitehall eventually petered out, but a large number of protesters and officers in riot gear remained at the scene.

The force said it expected the number of arrests to rise and "a post-event investigation" would be carried out.

White said police had been trying to mount "as low-key a policing operation as possible... but obviously they're not going to stick with that approach if their officers are coming under attack".

One protester told Sky News he was angry some of those at the rally had turned to violence, saying "the meaning's become lost".

The man said: "People are here, throwing bottles, doing all sorts of things, that is eventually going to tarnish why we're here. It's going to make us look like the bad people here."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised the peaceful protesters but criticised those who became violent, saying they "let down the cause".

He added: "To the tiny minority who were violent and threw glass bottles and lit flares - you endangered a safe and peaceful protest and let down this important cause."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said violence towards police was "completely unacceptable" and gave officers her full support.

In a tweet, she said: "Protests must be peaceful and in accordance with social-distancing rules. Violence towards a police officer is completely unacceptable at any time."

The day saw thousands take to the streets of cities including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Luton, Leicester and Bath.

At one event - in Watford - heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua addressed the crowd, telling them they were the "vaccine" to the "virus" of racism.

In the US meanwhile, a memorial service took place in Raeford, North Carolina, a small town near Mr Floyd's birthplace of Fayetteville.

At a private memorial service later in the day, mourners sang along with a choir.

On display at the front of the chapel was a large photo of the 46-year-old and a portrait of him adorned with an angel's wings and halo.

When a hearse carrying his coffin arrived, chants of "black power", "George Floyd" and "no justice, no peace" echoed from beneath the covered entrance.

In America, protests were held across cities, with Washington seeing one of the largest gatherings since Mr Floyd's death last week.