Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan has warned Black Lives Matter supporters not to “fall into a trap being laid by the extreme far-right” and told potential protesters to stay home this weekend.
“I am asking everyone protesting in London not do so and to find other ways to make your views heard,” Khan told LBC this morning. As well as expressing concerns over far-right activities, he said it was “impossible to keep your distance” at protests.
The mayor said: “I’m not someone who says these things lightly. I think protest is an integral part of living in a democracy. But actually we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. And we now know that the extreme far right will be having counter-protests.
“For those reasons, I’m asking people to please, please, please stay at home,” he concluded. Khan advised “those who care passionately about Black Lives Matter” to “find other ways” of expressing their support for the movement.
Asked by LBC host James O’Brien how he defines the “extreme far right”, Khan said: “We now know that some of the extreme far right are using the language of protecting the statues, but really it’s about getting involved in violence and disorder.”
He added: “They’re talking about protecting statues, but they’re also talking about taking on Black Lives Matter. I’m really keen to avoid either criminal damage – statues being damaged, graffiti – but also violence and disorder.
“My other point is this. Our police officers work so hard, under-resourced and overstretched. In the past couple of weeks, more than 60 have been injured.
“And I’m really keen also not to have them either take a risk with their personal safety, in terms of them being on the receiving end of violence, but also I don’t want them to be catching the virus either.”
Asked by a caller whether he agreed that police should “take a firm hand” against protesters, Khan said: “The vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful, lawful and by and large safe.
“But I think you’re right to remind all of us that a small minority have been involved in not just violence against our police but also criminal damage of statues in Parliament Square.
“I don’t understand the justification for burning the flag on the Cenotaph or causing graffiti on the Cenotaph. And I think it’s really important that the small minority aren’t allowed to detract from what this campaign is about.”
Khan also shared his views on Brexit. He noted that there was little chance of an extension to the transition period, adding: “It’s important over the next few months that the government does a trade deal with the European Union.”
He criticised the Tory attitude towards UK relations with the EU, saying: “We need them more than we need us. I hope that the government puts aside ideology and dogma.”
Asked whether he thought the government would strike a trade deal with the EU, to the surprise of O’Brien the London mayor replied: “I’m confident that we’ll do a deal. Even this government is not that pig-headed.”
Khan talked about how relations between himself as London mayor and the government were poor during the crisis. “I find out what the government is doing by watching the press conferences on a daily basis,” he said.
The mayor revealed that the last time he spoke to Boris Johnson was May 10th, and made the point “in a courteous way” that the Prime Minister has engaged more with Scotland and Wales than the capital – despite London having a bigger population than either.