Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the country to “work peacefully, lawfully” to defeat racism and discrimination, it was reported on Tuesday.
In an article for the Voice, the only British national black weekly newspaper, Johnson wrote that the government could not ignore the anger and “undeniable feeling of injustice” sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd, the unarmed African-American man while in police custody in the US, reports the BBC.
The Prime Minister said Floyd’s death had “awakened anger and a widespread and incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination: in education, in employment, in the application of the criminal law”.
“We simply cannot ignore the depth of emotion that has been triggered by that spectacle, of a black man losing his life at the hands of the police,” he wrote.
“We who lead and who govern simply can’t ignore those feelings because in too many cases, I am afraid, they will be founded on a cold reality.”
While he believed the UK was a much less racist society than it was 40 years ago, Johnson said he “heard” the Black Lives Matter protesters and accepted much more needed to be done to ensure everyone was treated equally.
“We must also frankly acknowledge that there is so much more to do – in eradicating prejudice, and creating opportunity, and the government I lead is committed to that effort.”
Thanking those who abided by social distancing while taking to the streets, the Prime Minister warned that further mass demonstrations endangered the UK’s efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.
Floyd’s death triggered an international outcry and sparked days of mass protests in cities across the UK.
While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, they turned violent in London on January when police officers were confronted with flares, and a statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was vandalised.
More protests are taking place on Tuesday, including in London and Oxford, with the latter focusing on calls for a statue at Oriel College of imperialist Cecil Rhodes to be taken down.