'Statue defenders' gather around Robert Clive in Shrewsbury
Around 50 men gathered to "defend" the statue of Robert Clive in Shrewsbury, claiming they wanted to "stand up" for the town's history.
Petitions have been circling on social media over the past week, with some wanting the statue of Robert Clive, of the East India Company, to be removed and others wanting to to stay.
The group that gathered at the Square in Shrewsbury on Saturday morning said they wanted to protect the town's heritage, with one of the men saying "he's been here longer than any of us".
The gathering was not organised by any particular organisation but among the group was Nick Griffin, former leader of the far-right British National Party, who lives near Welshpool.
Clive earned his fortunes through the East India Company, and many of the company's policies have been said to have caused the famine of Bengal that lasted between 1769 and 1773, killing around a third of the region's population.
Clive, who was from the Market Drayton area and later became Shrewsbury's MP, played a major role in Britain’s colonial domination over India and was responsible for looting its wealth and resources.
More than 10,000 people signed a petition to have the statue in Shrewsbury's Market Square removed and a petition was set up a few days later to keep it up, which has more than 6,000 signatures.
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- 'Once the statue toppling gets going, it’s going to be hard to know where to stop'
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"It's nothing to do with racism, we're proud of our town and its history and want to stand up for it," the men said, but noone there wanted to speak on record.
"If the police did their job and protected statues across the country then we wouldn't have to," one added.
Four police officers watched on from over the road with their van parked by the Market Hall but there were no arrests or arguments.
See the petitions here:
- For the statue to removed - started by Jake Thompson
- For the statue to removed - started by David Parton
- Against the statue being removed
The group were generally not attempting to stay socially distant and after leaving the statue continued drinking in the Quarry late into the afternoon.
There several of the men who had been in the Square confronted a small Black Lives Matter demonstration which had started earlier in the day.
The young group of around 10 protesters were stood in the top of the Quarry park, next to the Flower Show office, and at first one police officer was keeping an eye on proceedings.
However when around 15 of the men from the Square came and stood nearby, around 20 more police officers arrived.
As the Black Lives Matter protesters chanted "say his name, George Floyd" and "black lives matter" one of the men shouted back "criminal" and "white lives matter".
And as the protesters chanted "Boris Johnson's a racist," another man shouted back: "So does the tax not matter, the tax, we all pay tax, you're happy aren't you? You're getting paid furlough aren't you? You're getting paid money aren't you? What are you whinging about then?
"They're turning around and saying 'Boris Johnson is a racist', he's been paying their wages all week."
Around nine police cars were parked on Town Walls by the Quarry but there is not thought to have been any arrests and eventually the groups separated.
Meanwhile more than 100 people were arrested at a far-right protest in London, which was condemned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “racist thuggery”.
Six police officers suffered minor injuries in violent clashes as several hundred demonstrators, mostly white men, attended the protest organised by far-right groups which claimed they wanted to protect statues such as Winston Churchill from vandalism.
But the demonstration turned violent after hundreds of self-proclaimed “statue defenders” took over areas near the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square and hurled missiles, smoke grenades, glass bottles and flares at police officers.
Many of those present were drinking, and there were a number of clashes with police in riot gear as crowds chanting “Tommy Robinson” and “England” while raising their arms surged towards lines of officers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised the “racist thuggery” witnessed at the protests.
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