LONDON (Sputnik) - Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's decision to board up statues in the UK capital, including one commemorating former wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, is a sign of surrender to Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters, Freddy Vachha, the general secretary of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), said on Friday.
A wave of protests against racial inequality has swept through the UK in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the US city of Minneapolis on May 25. Over the past week, demonstrators have turned their attention to statues commemorating public figures linked with racism or the slave trade. During the protests, the Cenotaph war memorial and a statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was defaced. Fears of further violence have prompted Khan to construct protective barriers around both landmarks in a bid to prevent further damage, although concerns remain as to whether the police will be able to prevent further disorder.
"This is a declaration of surrender by the person who likes to call himself a mayor. This is an outrage, he's a disgrace, he's the worst mayor London has ever had, he is the worst without any question ... He doesn't understand that we have to stand up to this. He just doesn't get it and unfortunately, London is now a hotbed of sedition," the UKIP official said.
BLM made headlines last week following widespread clashes with UK police. More than 130 people have been arrested since the beginning of the BLM protests in the UK, and 62 law enforcement officers have been injured.
Leading UK officials have failed to show the required leadership during the ongoing protests, Vachha stated.
"We're at a huge crossroads, a moral crossroads in this country and we're just not seeing the leadership. They are just reacting to events," the UKIP official remarked.
Vachha also took aim at those seeking to cause further harm to UK monuments, claiming there was a concentrated effort underway to attack the nation's past. BLM activists have repeatedly attempted to remove or attack statues in the UK that they associate with either slavery or racism, having been successful in their efforts last weekend to tear down a statue of 18th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the country cannot edit or censor its past. These comments were echoed by the UKIP official, who argued that the country's history needed to be remembered and appreciated fully rather than obliterated or otherwise ignored.
"There's this attitude that anything that had anything to do with slavery has to be removed from public sight, boarded up even, just like that. But this is history and those who forget history are condemned to repeat it," Vachha remarked.
Several groups of citizens have taken to the streets of UK cities to protect statues from being vandalized by BLM protesters. A statue of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in London has also been boarded up amid fears that it would be defaced by what Khan called "extreme far-right groups."
Vachha took issue with the notion that all counter-protesters to the BLM movement must somehow be on the "far-right," claiming instead a great many of them were likely to be regular citizens looking to protect UK monuments.
"Far-right is being used to describe anyone who is not on the far-left. So, I would dismiss the ravings of this man [Mayor Khan]. The vast majority of people who try to come out and protect those statues will not be far-right. They will simply be outraged that they are trying to remove an integral part of our history. We're not celebrating slavery or other wrongs, but those who fail to learn from history will repeat it. We're not justifying it but we are explaining it," the UKIP official stated.
There was also an element of hypocrisy in play when it came to how the country’s COVID-19 lockdown measures were being enforced, Vachha stated, especially in light of the decision to allow previous mass demonstrations of BLM activists to go ahead.
"Police are threatening people with arrest for trying to attend a funeral of a loved one but now we've seen huge numbers … breaking social distancing to conglomerate in London," the UKIP official stated.
The London branch of the BLM movement announced on Thursday that a planned Saturday protest was cancelled as the safety of demonstrators could not be guaranteed. The group cited rumours that individuals connected to the far-right English Defence League were planning on travelling to the demonstrations to protest against the defacing of statues.