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Essex police chief says officers won’t stop statues from being toppled if it means putting them or public at risk

Crime / Fri 12th Jun 2020 at 06:12am

STATUES targeted by Black Lives Matter protestors will not be protected by the police if it means putting themselves or the public at risk, says the Essex’s top police boss.

Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said it was up to operational commanders to make decisions on whether officers should step in to stop damage to monuments but said people’s safety would be prioritised over property.

He said: ‘What we will do is have appropriate plans and of course the officers will be there looking to make sure that people don’t get hurt in the first instance, trying to protect property if that’s the right thing to do, but people come first, making sure officers and those taking part are safe.’

Mr Harrington, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on public order, said more than 155,000 people across the UK had taken part in almost 200 demonstrations, with 137 arrests.

Last weekend the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, was brought down by protestors in Bristol.

Statues glorifying slave traders and colonialists have come into sharp focus in recent days, as part of a broader movement inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that started in the United States following the death of George Floyd on May 25.

Mr Harrington said: ‘We will not tolerate violence in our communities, whether that’s against people, whether it’s against property or, indeed, against police officers, and if this kind of disorder occurs, we will act.

‘It’s unacceptable that so many officers were injured in London over the weekend. And I think any criminality will be thoroughly investigated and action will be taken against those who commit offences.’

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