Ten officers were left injured after police clashed with a small number of demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter protest in London on Saturday.
Thousands of peaceful activists marched through the capital city today to demand justice for George Floyd and call for an end to systemic racism today.
However, tensions escalated outside Downing Street in the early evening, with 14 people arrested and a post-event investigation set to be carried out.
Met officers on horses are said to have ‘mounted a charge’ down Whitehall at about 6pm in order to push protesters back.
Some were allegedly forced to guard Downing Street after red flares were thrown over security gates.
Bottles and other objects were also reportedly hurled at police, while images showed bikes being thrown at horses.
One officer was taken to hospital after falling off her horse, with footage showing the animal then bolting, sending crowds of people scattering.
The officer is currently receiving treatment for her injuries, which are not life-threatening and the horse is safely back in its stable, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said tonight. The force is examining the full circumstances of what took place, he added.
The force said 10 officers were injured overall at the demonstration after a small number of the crowd became ‘angry and intent on violence’ after 7pm.
Superintendent Jo Edwards, spokesperson for policing today’s demonstration, said: ‘We understand people’s passion to come and let their voice be heard, they protested largely without incident.
‘Our officers have been professional and very restrained, but there was a smaller group intent on violence towards police officers.
‘Twenty-three officers have received injuries, doing their job, policing protest over the last few days, and that is totally unacceptable.
‘There have been 14 arrests made today, but we expect that number to rise and there will be a post-event investigation carried out.’
The majority of protesters at the demonstration had left central London by 9pm, the Metropolitan Police added.
Home Secretary Priti Patel
said violence at protests was ‘completely unacceptable’ and gave officers her ‘full support in tackling disorderly behaviour’.
Meanwhile, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan praised those who protested peacefully on Saturday but said people who became violent ‘let down the cause’
He said: ‘To the thousands of Londoners who protested peacefully today, I stand with you and I share your anger and your pain. George Floyd’s brutal killing must be a catalyst for change worldwide.”
He added: ‘No country, city, police service or institution can absolve itself of the responsibility to do better. We must stand together and root out racism wherever it is found. Black Lives Matter.
‘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.’
It comes after the government urged the public to stay away from mass demonstrations this weekend as ‘coronavirus
remains a real threat’.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing on Friday: ‘Like so many I am appalled by the death of George Floyd and I understand why people are deeply upset but we are still facing a health crisis and coronavirus
remains a real threat.
‘The reason that it is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend is to protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease.
‘So please, for the safety of your loved ones, do not attend large gatherings including demonstrations of more than six people.’
Many protesters in Parliament Square wore masks and face coverings today, with some also using gloves and hand sanitiser gel.
Massive crowds also gathered in other cities across the UK, including Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Swansea, Leicester and Sheffield.
Some placards in London referred to the pandemic, with one saying: ‘There is a virus greater than Covid
-19 and it’s called racism.’
Other signs read ‘Silence is violence’, ‘One race, the human race’ and ‘Stop police brutality’.
While tensions appeared to escalate among a small number of protesters in the evening, demonstrations across the rest of the day remained peaceful.
Around 15,000 activists listened to speeches and took part in a minute’s silence in Westminster in the afternoon, with one organiser using a megaphone to tell the crowds: ‘We are not here for violence. Today is sheer positivity, today is sheer love.’
Around 10,000 broke off to march towards the Home Office to call for justice for victims of the Windrush immigration scandal.
Protester Bobbi, 26, from Chingford, London – who did not give her last name, said: ‘We’re literally living in the history books, we’re going to be teaching our future children about this and I want to say I was here to support that.’
It comes after thousands gathered in Hyde Park on Wednesday, with Star Wars actor John Boyega sharing a rallying cry in response to the tragic death of Mr Floyd.