UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that he would not "take a knee" to support the Black Lives Matter movement, stating that such protests were "a matter of personal choice"
Speaking on TalkRadio on Thursday, Mr Rabb was asked whether he would show support for the ongoing protest movement, where he replied: "I take the knee for two people; the Queen and the Mrs when I asked her to marry me".
— talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) June 18, 2020
He added that while he understood the "sense of frustration and restlessness" in the BLM movement, he said that it seemed as if the gesture was a "symbol of subjugation and subordination".
"I've got to say, on this taking a knee thing, I don't know, maybe it's got a broader history but it seems to be taken from The Game of Thrones [sic], feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than one of liberation and emancipation. But I understand people feel differently about it so it's a matter of personal choice," he told TalkRadio.
The comments prompted division among social media users, with numerous politicians, pundits and personalities tweeting anger and support.
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) June 18, 2020
— Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu (@SholaMos1) June 18, 2020
— Kate Hoey (@CatharineHoey) June 18, 2020
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) June 18, 2020
But Mr Raab added in later comments he had "full respect for the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the issues driving them".
"If people wish to take a knee, that’s their choice and I respect it. We all need to come together to tackle any discrimination and social injustice," he concluded.
"Taking a knee" refers to the custom of US athletes refusing to stand for the US national anthem after fierce protests over police brutality and the killing of Eric Garner erupted in Ferguson in 2016.
Downing Street declined to comment on Mr Raab's further statements, adding that the PM had not spoken to him about his comments. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that Mr Raab was "very clear he was expressing a personal opinion".
The news comes after former UKIP and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage quit Leading Britain's Conversation (LBC) in June over comments on the protest movement.
Global protests have gripped major cities worldwide after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota for purchasing goods with a counterfeit $20 note.
Witnesses filmed the handcuffed suspect begging for his life after a police officer suffocated the victim with his knee in May.
The incident sparked global mass protests, resulting in numerous statutes associated with slavery and racism being toppled by protestors or removed by local authorities. Calls to defund and reform the police have also been voiced by activists.