Black Lives Matter: Cenotaph protesters 'protect' war memorial

Bikers at the protest at the cenotaph in Bristol
Image caption,
Dozens of bikers attended the protest in Bristol

Hundreds of protesters have gathered around the cenotaph in the centre of Bristol.

About 400 football fans, war veterans and bikers were among those who came to the city to "protect" its war memorial.

They greatly outnumbered a group of Black Lives Matter protesters, who were demonstrating a week after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled

A large number of police stood between the two groups, although only minor skirmishes have been reported.

The event began at noon with a loud parade of bikers on the roads around the cenotaph, just yards from the empty plinth where the statue of Colston stood.

Churchill chants

They drove off to a round of applause from those gathered at the Cenotaph.

Once they had left, shouts were exchanged between the opposing groups.

Those gathered around the cenotaph could be heard to shout "scum" and "fascists" at Black Lives Matter supporters.

They also chanted "There's only one Winston Churchill...," before breaking into a rendition of God Save The Queen.

Nearby, around a dozen supporters of the Black Lives Matter group gathered holding handwritten placards and stood in silence watching the main demonstration.

Though the event was largely peaceful, officers stepped in to keep protesters apart when a man started removing placards left by anti-racism protesters at the foot of the Colston statue plinth.

He was stopped by others at the rally.

Protests in England

Another man briefly scaled the plinth and unfurled a Union Flag to applause and singing.

Posters shared online before the event had called for fans of Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Cardiff City, Newport and Swindon football clubs to come to the city to protect the cenotaph.

During a wave of protests last week, statues around the country, including a sculpture of Winston Churchill in London, were defaced.

Image caption,
One man tried to put Black Lives Matter placards in a bin bag, but was stopped by other protesters

Elsewhere, Black Lives Matter protests took place in Gloucester and Shepton Mallet.

About 600 people took part in a Black Lives Matter event at Gloucester Park.

Protesters observing social distancing rules were joined by police as they knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that George Floyd was held down by police in Minnesota before he died, sparking outrage across the world.

In Shepton Mallet about 100 people gathered at Collett Park Bandstand.

Image caption,
Protesters in Gloucester Park knelt in memory of George Floyd