Protestors taped placards with anti-racism messages across Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament Square and wrote 'racist' near its plinth, as UK became one of the major sites of George Floyd demonstrations outside the United States on Sunday.
The statue, installed in 2015, is one among 12 in the square of prominent British, Commonwealth and foreign political figures, such as Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. Winston Churchill's statue was also targeted, with the words sprayed on it: 'was a racist'.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement provided spark in the south-west England town of Bristol, where there has long been public unease with its historical links with slave trade. Edward Colston, a 17th century local slave trader who profited considerably from the trade, has a visible presence through his philanthropic activities in the town, including a statue.
The statue, installed in 1895, was pulled down with ropes by throngs of anti-racism protestors, dragged along the town's streets, and thrown into river Avon.
Pulling down Colston's statue was hailed by Labour MPs and others, while several policemen were injured in demonstrations in London. The action in Bristol came in for criticism from home secretary Priti Patel, who called it "utterly disgraceful".
Sajid Javid, former chancellor, said: "I grew up in Bristol. I detest how Edward Colston profited from the slave trade. But, THIS IS NOT OK. If Bristolians wants to remove a monument it should be done democratically - not by criminal damage".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "People have a right to protest peacefully & while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police. These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery – and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve".
"Those responsible will be held to account", he added.
The police in Bristol defended not preventing the Colston statue being pulled down and thrown into the river, but added that it was an "act of criminal damage" for which an investigation will be carried out to identify those involved.
A large number of people demonstrated through Sunday outside the US embassy in London.
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