Counter-protesters claiming to be protecting colonial statues in London have clashed with police as Boris Johnson denounced “racist thuggery”.
Groups including right-wing activists rallied in Trafalgar Square where police sought to separate them from Black Lives Matter protesters.
Two groups of about 100 people faced off, one chanting “Black Lives Matter”, the other racial slurs.
Police were seen being kicked and punched while some groups jostled, tossed bottles and cans and set off fireworks as riot police lined up.
Video also showed what appeared to be scuffles between black and white demonstrators.
In and around Parliament Square, hundreds of mostly white men wearing football shirts, chanting “England, England” and describing themselves as patriots, gathered alongside military veterans to guard the Cenotaph war memorial.
The group sang songs in support of anti-immigration activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the name of Tommy Robinson.
“Winston Churchill, he’s one of our own,” they also chanted, near his statue which last weekend was sprayed with graffiti reading: “Churchill was a racist”.
“My culture is under attack. This is my culture and my English history: why should Churchill be boarded up? Why is the Cenotaph attacked? It is not right,” said David Allen, one of the protesters.
The heated scuffles prompted the Prime Minister to issue a warning against racist behaviour and violence.
“Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law,” Mr Johnson tweeted.
“These marches and protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.”
Racist thuggery has no place on our streets. Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law. These marches & protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 13, 2020
In Britain, debate is raging over monuments to those involved in the country’s imperialist past, especially after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down and thrown into the harbour of Bristol port last weekend.
Statues of historical figures including Winston Churchill – Britain’s World War II leader whom protesters call a xenophobe – have been boarded up to try and minimise trouble.
Whitehall is now blocked off by police. This happened moments ago: pic.twitter.com/RDaIAbNUUB
— Dominic Casciani (@BBCDomC) June 13, 2020
Police said on Saturday that some people were bringing weapons to the London rallies.
They imposed route restrictions on both groups and said rallies must end by 5pm.
“Anyone who thinks they can commit a crime or vandalise property will be arrested,” Commander Bas Javid said in a statement.
Thousands of people have protested in central Paris in the latest demonstration against alleged racism and violence by the police.
There was some violence as people threw stones at riot police who fired tear gas into the crowds.
The demonstration was called by Assa Traore, whose brother Adama, a young black man, died in disputed circumstances after his arrest by gendarmes in 2016 in a town north of Paris.
“We are gathering today to denounce police violence. We are gathering today to denounce social violence. We are gathering today to denounce racial violence,” Ms Traore said as the crowd gathered.
Ms Traore drew a parallel between the death of her brother and that of George Floyd in the United States, which set off a wave of protests against police violence and racism in the US and abroad.
An estimated 20,000 people defied a police ban to attend an earlier protest she called last week.