11 arrests after counter-protestors crash Newcastle BLM demonstrations

Muslim Taseer reports on the violent counter-protests by The Defenders of Newcastle.

Muslim Taseer
13th June 2020

Protests in Newcastle today turned violent as counter-protesters began throwing objects at protesters and police, leading to 11 arrests being made.

Image: Eilidh Wilcockson

Hundreds showed up to Grey's Monument for the second weekly BLM protest Saturday afternoon, but found that the famous city centre meeting point had been surrounded by a group calling themselves The Defenders of Newcastle, who feared that the BLM protesters would attempt to pull down or otherwise vandalise the 135ft statue. The protest continued regardless, and tension built between the BLM protestors and the counter-protestors argued to be in their hundreds. A line of police officers seperated the two, until the counter-protestors began to hurl objects at the police, causing fighting to break out.

Protesters remained peaceful, despite agitation from the counter-protesters who weren't wearing masks and were seen drinking. By 12pm, police had formed a buffer zone between the counter-protesters surrounding Monument and the BLM protesters. The zone held for a couple of hours until smoke flares were thrown and the counter-protesters began hurling glass bottles at the BLM protesters. Police dispersed the crowd and made arrests, with these allegedly not happening until the police themselves were being attacked. Several protestors, police officers, and animals were injured. A police cordon was set up and by 6pm, Grey's Monument was deserted.

Grey's Monument had initially appeared on Topple the Racists, a map developed by the Stop Trump Coalition that lists statues "celebrating racism and slavery". One of two Newcastle memorials featured on the map, the description stated how Earl Grey was PM when slavery was abolished, and reparations were paid to white slavers instead of black ex-slaves. It was, however, shortly removed and event organisers made it clear they had no plans to harm the monument. The Lord Armstrong monument outside the Great North Museum: Hancock had initially featured on the same list, but was similarly later removed.

Counter-protesters had begun showing up as early as 10am and surrounding the monument, brandishing Union Jack and St George's Cross flags. Their chants included phrases like "white lives matter" and "you are not English anymore", directed at BLM protesters. There were reports of individuals making Nazi salutes. Smaller groups were also seen defending the nearby war memorial and St George statues. By the peak of the protest, they almost rivaled the BLM protesters in size.

The BLM protesters remained peaceful as they had last week. North East Against Racism, one of the organizations involved in the demonstration, released the following statement on their Facebook page.

Newcastle student Eilidh Wilcockson, who was protesting on the BLM side, said that the smoke canisters were thrown by the counter-protesters, and that some of them were thrown back towards them. Additionally, she said all bottles and cans of beer were flung by the counter-protestors, who had been seen drinking since early morning. She also stated that she believed her BAME co-protestors were more likely to be attacked by the counter-protestor crowd than white protestors.

"[The counter-protesters] came from the side and behind us, and attacked us from there whilst we were literally silent and kneeling...They came and attacked from the sides where there weren't many police, [and] were looking for ways to attack us in literally any direction possible...The police presence was far greater on the [counter-protestor] side for a reason. They had riot police, horses and dogs on them. I saw police on horses hitting [counter-protesters] with batons, they were so out of control.

Eilidh Wilcockson

A video from @hopenothate on Twitter seems to confirm it was the right-wing counter-protesters that initially threw smoke canisters and initiated violence.

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