Like you, I was sickened at George Floyd’s tragic death. I share your horror at his treatment by the US Police and recognise that similar injustices are experienced by minority communities across the world. I fully understand why these injustices have driven people to protest in the UK and globally.
Whilst we have taken many steps as a society to remove racism and discrimination, I appreciate that there is more that we can and should do. I know from talking to my constituents and colleagues that instances of implicit discrimination continue and therefore I fully support moves to help those seeking social justice and better life chances. Indeed I helped to establish Into University which is a charity that supports children in disadvantaged areas of our country to raise both their life expectations and opportunities regardless of their colour or background.
As a Government we fully recognise the right and need for people to come together and express their views peacefully. This freedom of expression is a fundamental building block of our democracy. However, due to the Coronavirus, we find ourselves in a position where we need to prioritise the health and safety of our people and therefore large gatherings of people are currently unlawful.
The protests that we saw last week not only threatened our struggle against coronavirus but were also, in some cases, marred by incidents of violence and destruction. Such incidents undermine the purpose of the majority of protestors and put people at risk.
As the Prime Minister said in his statement of 9 June:
“It is BAME communities who have been at the forefront of the struggle against coronavirus – whether in health care or transport or social care or any of the other essential services that have kept our country going.
“And it is BAME communities, tragically, that have paid a disproportionate price.
“So no, I will not support those who flout the rules on social distancing, for the obvious reason that we risk a new infection at a critical time and just as we have made huge progress.”
Our police fully recognise and support the need to peacefully protest, but at this time more than at any other time they need our communities to work with them to facilitate lawful and safe action.