The Mayor of London has urged Black Lives Matter protestors to stay home this weekend, after large demonstrations in the capital last week.
Sadiq Khan said more mass gatherings could “risk spreading Covid-19” – and warned of far-right extremists planning counter-demonstrations to “provoke violence”.
Protests have taken place across the country in recent weeks, following the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of US police.
Those out on the streets in Britain have highlighted racism here in the United Kingdom.
Marches have been largely peaceful – but in London, several statues including those of Churchill and Gandhi in Parliament Square were vandalised.
One activist also tried to burn the British flag on the Cenotaph war memorial.
Far-right activists – supported by Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson – are planning a counter-protest in Parliament Square to defend monuments this weekend.
Black Lives Matter Organisers have cancelled a planned demonstration in Hyde Park on Saturday amid fears of a violent clash.
Now the Mayor says “key statues and monuments at risk” – including Churchill, Mandela and the Cenotaph – will be boarded up this weekend for protection.
“Any violence or criminal damage from anyone is always absolutely unacceptable and will simply not be tolerated in our city,” he said.
Mr Khan said he stands with protestors who are “saying loud and clear that Black Lives Matter”.
“This moment must be a catalyst for systemic, lasting change to tackle the racism and inequalities that black people still face today, in this country and elsewhere,” he added.
But the Mayor said he is “extremely concerned” that more protests could spread the virus and lead to violence.
“Extreme far-right groups who advocate hatred and division are planning counter-protests, which means that the risk of disorder is high,” he said.
“Be in no doubt these counter-protests are there to provoke violence, and their only goal is to distract and hijack this important issue.”
And Mr Khan said new cases of Covid-19 have been identified among protestors in other countries – and the same could happen in London.
“Please, for yourselves, your family members who may be vulnerable to Covid-19, and for the wider cause, please stay at home over the next few days and find a safe way to make your voices heard,” he said.