Published On: Sat, Jun 13th, 2020

Far-Right Groups Push Back as Protesters Gather in Europe

LONDON — Thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against police brutality and racism in European cities like London and Paris on Saturday, after a week in which statues linked to slavery and colonialism were targeted across the continent and calls intensified for scrutiny of policing and of a history of racial discrimination.

As protesters on the continent have showed solidarity with those marching in the United States in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, they have also denounced their countries’ own problems and urged the authorities to address them.

The situation was especially tense in London, where far-right groups came into the center of the city to stage an angry and at times violent counterprotest. They clashed several times with the police, who had imposed restrictions on the marches because of concerns about the potential for violent exchanges with protesters backing Black Lives Matter and left-wing causes.

Videos shared on social media showed mounted police officers standing guard in Parliament Square in front of statues of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, which had been covered to protect them from vandalism. Protesters in the square were seen threatening and punching police officers who tried to repel them.

The protests and counter-demonstrations came after a week in which protesters in Britain tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, in Bristol, and others scrawled the word “racist” on a Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square.

Reckonings are also being called for in Germany, although gatherings planned across the country on Saturday were on a much smaller scale that on previous weekends.

The police also barricaded streets leading to the plaza, a move reminiscent of tense episodes that occurred in 2019 and early this year during the “Yellow Vests” demonstrations over a proposed pension overhaul in the country.

Dialogue between protesters and the authorities in Europe has been scarce. When demonstrators in Britain called on their country to acknowledge its racist and imperialist history, Mr. Johnson accused them of trying to “edit or censor our past.”