Protesters, police clash in London, Paris

Anti-racism protesters rallied again around Britain on Saturday, with scuffles breaking out in London as counter-demonstrators also came out to protect monuments targeted for their links to colonial history, news wires reported. In Trafalgar Square, police separated two groups of about 100 people each, one chanting “Black Lives Matter”, the other racial slurs.

Statues of historical figures including Winston Churchill - Britain’s World War Two leader whom protesters call a xenophobe - were boarded up to try and minimise trouble. In Britain, debate is raging over monuments to those involved in the nation’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.

Police said on Saturday that some people were bringing weapons to the London rallies. They imposed route restrictions on both groups. “Anyone who thinks they can commit a crime or vandalise property will be arrested,” police offices Bas Javid said in a statement cited by Reuters.

In and around Parliament Square, hundreds of people wearing football shirts, chanting “England, England”, and describing themselves as patriots, gathered alongside military veterans to guard the Cenotaph war memorial. “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 one of the protesters. About two miles away, around 20 anti-racism protesters gathered at Hyde Park, holding Black Lives Matter placards, even though organisers had told them not to attend fearing clashes.

Meanwhile police fired tear gas at protesters on Saturday in central Paris, where thousands gathered for a demonstration against racism and police violence. A couple of tear gas canisters were deployed and the crowd moved away calmly, according to a Reuters journalist at the scene. A march was called by supporters of Adama Traore, a 24-year-old black man who died in 2016 in police custody near Paris.

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