Toppling of Colston statue had devastating impact, Priti Patel claims

The toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol had a “devasting” impact on police, the Home Secretary says.

Priti Patel made the claim while explaining why she did not support England’s footballers taking the knee this week at the Euros, calling it “gesture politics”.

She also said England fans had a right to boo when footballers did this action.

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Ms Patel told GB News: “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture, gesture politics, to a certain extent, as well.”

She claimed the Black Lives Matter protests last summer had undermined policing as she criticised the toppling of the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

“It’s all well to support a cause and make your voices heard,” she told the broadcaster.

“But actually, quite frankly, and we saw last year in particular with some of the protests that took place, I speak now very much from what I saw in the impact on policing. It was devastating.

Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis. PA Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 7, 2020. See PA story POLICE Floyd. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

“Not only that, I just don’t subscribe to this view that we should be rewriting our history, pulling down statues, the famous Colston statue, and what’s happened there. Toppling statues is not the answer.

“It’s about learning from our past, learning from our history and actually working together to drive the right outcomes.”

Some football fans at England’s first match of the Euros yesterday (Sunday, June 13) were seen to boo the players for kneeling before the match.

When asked if she condemned the booers, Ms Patel said it was a “choice for them, quite frankly”.

Her statement came after a Number 10 spokesman said that the Prime Minister wants the public to “cheer them on, not boo” at the tournament and explicitly supported those who decide to take part in the protest.

Pressed on whether she would boo the team for taking the knee, the Home Secretary added: “I’ve not gone to a football match to even contemplate that.”

Last week, when asked if Mr Johnson backs players taking the knee, the Number 10 spokesman said: “Yes. The Prime Minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.

“The Prime Minister wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo.”

The symbol of anti-racism solidarity gained attention in American football in 2016 as they protested against police brutality and racism in the US.

The act has since spread further and was adopted by football players in the UK partly to demonstrate that racism should not be tolerated in the sport.

But there have been incidents of a minority in the crowd booing players as they take the knee before games, including before England’s friendly matches against Austria and Romania last week.

A minority of England fans once again defied calls not to jeer the players as they took the knee before kick-off in the Euro 2020 clash with Croatia on Sunday.

Requests not to boo fell on some deaf ears, with an audible round of jeers from some of the expected 22,500-strong crowd at Wembley, although cheers from the vast majority soon drowned them out.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said taking the knee before football games is “a choice for each team” as he refused to condemn Scotland for deciding not to perform the gesture, apart from when they play against England.

But he added: “I profoundly don’t think you should boo your own team before kick-off.”

The Labour leader, who describes himself as a “massive football fan”, said: “For the first time for the young players, you don’t boo them before you’ve even kicked off.”

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