Iconic Bristol-based graffiti artist Banksy joined a large number of people in London and elsewhere in the UK to protest against the killing of George Floyd in the US, despite home secretary Priti Patel and Scotland Yard advising against it in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Banksy, whose identity remains unknown but has gained world-wide acclaim for his work appearing on public buildings, commented on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in a social media post accompanied by artwork featuring a burning US flag.
He wrote: “At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. ‘But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine.’ People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system”.
“Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t – no-one will let them in the apartment upstairs.”
In Parliament Square in London and elsewhere, tens of thousands of people ignored official advice to avoid mass gatherings and came together to protest against the killing, carrying placards and ‘taking the knee’; not everyone wore face-masks.
Patel said: “Of course, I completely understand people’s desire to express their views and to have that right to protest. But the fact of the matter is we are in a health pandemic across the United Kingdom and coronavirus is a deadly virus”.
“I’d say to those that want to protest: please don’t. The regulations are very clear in terms of gatherings and mass gatherings in particular. We must put public health first at this particular time”, she added.
Cressida Dick, Scotland Yard commissioner, told police officers not to ‘take the knee’ as an act of solidarity, and advised people to protest without gathering in large groups because of the pandemic.
She said: “We encourage our officers to talk to people, to engage in a positive manner with people. We won’t be kneeling during protests. However heartfelt something like that might be, I don’t think it is likely to be safe”.
“We are fighting a deadly virus, it can get spread in gatherings,” she added.