'Time not right' for Black Lives Matter protests, says Burnley MP

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham has said now is not the right time for mass protests as the country continues its fight against coronavirus.

Monday, 8th June 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 8th June 2020, 12:42 pm
Protesters attend a second day of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in St Peter's Square on June 07, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police has sparked protests across the United States, as well as demonstrations of solidarity in many countries around the world. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Thousands of people across the UK came together over the weekend in support of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked following the murder of George Floyd in America.

Mr Higginbotham said that while he believes the right to protest is a cornerstone of democracy, he did not think now was the right time after the "enormous sacrifices" made in helping to contain Covid-19.

He called attacks on the police "shameful and wrong", saying society needed to bring about change through discussion and debate.

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

He said: "Last week we saw the deeply shocking and upsetting scenes from the US with the death of George Floyd by a police officer.

"We saw as he struggled to breathe, subjected to the worst kind of treatment by one of the very people supposed to help keep him safe. It is absolutely right that those responsible for his death are held to account and face the full force of the law.

"And no one can watch that and fail to understand why people want to go outside and protest. Communities around the world are hurting; angry at the injustice which allowed that to happen; and wanting change. Not only in the USA but everywhere. Because black lives do matter.

"In my role as your Member of Parliament I will always stand up against prejudice in whatever form it takes. Nobody should face discrimination, oppression or hostility because of race, gender, sexuality or religion. The UK has a proud record of tackling discrimination, but there are still problems that we must all address. And we will need to address them together.

"This weekend we have seen mass protests across the UK and the right to do this is something I hold dear. It is the cornerstone of our democracy.

"But I do not think that this weekend was the time to do so. Enormous sacrifices have been made to contain coronavirus across the country, and that sacrifice continues.

"Some chose to use these protests for their own end; using a community’s pain and suffering as an excuse for violence, vandalism and law breaking. That is shameful and wrong. This has included attacks on our police officers and the defacing of our war memorials and statues, including that of Winston Churchill on the anniversary of D-Day.

"Our police officers are not US police officers. They work tirelessly, day-in and day-out, to keep us safe; running towards danger as everyone else runs away. They deserve our respect, admiration and support in the job they do.

"Covid-19 has given us so many challenges over the last three months but it has also shown our ability to come together. We need to get back to that. Racism is intolerable and must be addressed. But we do that through discussion and debate. To put so many lives at risk during this period, coupled with the violent nature of a minority who have attended these protests, is wrong.

"So my message to those on the streets is clear:

"Stop attacking the police. Stop defacing memorials. Stop spreading the virus. And let’s work together, not against each other.