After days of relative silence on the wave of anti-racist protests which has swept the world since the unarmed black man’s death in Minnesota, the Prime Minister says he will not “support or indulge” those who break the law or attack police.
However, in a statement given to the Voice, he acknowledged that the country has “so much more to do” to eradicate racial prejudice.
“In this country and around the world his dying words – I can’t breathe – have awakened an anger and a widespread and incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination: in education, in employment, in the application of the criminal law,” Mr Johnson says.
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“And we who lead and who govern simply can’t ignore those feelings because in too many cases, I am afraid, they will be founded on a cold reality.
He added: “And so I say yes, you are right, we are all right, to say Black Lives Matter; and to all those who have chosen to protest peacefully and who have insisted on social distancing – I say, yes of course I hear you, and I understand.”
It comes after Black Lives Matter protesters in the UK captured headlines around the world after tearing down a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.
The memorial, which had previously been the subject of a 11,000-strong petition to have it removed, was then rolled towards the harbour and thrown into the water.
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Bristol’s then mayor George Ferguson branded celebrations of Colston “perverse” in 2013.
Thousands of people also attended marches in London on Saturday to protest Floyd’s death in police custody in Minnesota, USA on May 25.
The PM had previously described the protests as having been “subverted by thuggery” after 22 police officers were injured over the weekend in London.
In his statement, he added that demonstrators attacking public property or the police would “face the full force of the law” and that those who want to change politics should consider how they vote or standing for election.
He added that he could not support “those who flout rules on social distancing”, highlighting the disproportionately heavy toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the BAME community.
Mr Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis two weeks ago after white police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded for his life.
His death has led to a fortnight of widespread protests against racial discrimination across the United States and worldwide.
In a clip that went viral, Chauvin, 44, can be seen pressing on Mr Floyd’s neck as he screams ‘please, please’ and calls for his mum, saying he cannot breathe.
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