Home Secretary Priti Patel says she would refuse to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter

Priti Patel revealed she would refuse to ‘take a knee’ in support of Black Lives Matter today as she branded the protests that swept the UK last year as ‘disgraceful’.

The Home Secretary attacked the demonstrations that swept the globe in 2020 after a wave of extra-judicial killings of black Americans.

The British arm of the protests saw statues of historical figures associated with slavery pulled down – and one of Winston Churchill outside Parliament defaced with graffiti accusing him of racism.

And it has led to a wave of action across the UK to re-examine the country’s imperial past, with has led to condemnation from Tory ministers. 

Appearing on LBC radio Ms Patel said: ‘Last summer was quite a moment with all the protest that we saw taking place.

‘We saw policing as well coming under a great deal of pressure from some of the protest. I don’t support protest and I also did not support the protests that were associated…’

Interrupted, she sought to clarify that she was not criticising the right to protest but rather the ‘dreadful’ action last year.

Ms Patel said she would not take the knee herself, and asked if she agrees with the gesture more generally, she replied: ‘No I wouldn’t, and I would not have done at the time either. 

‘There are other ways in which people can express their opinions, protesting in the way that people did last summer was not the right way at all.’ 

The British arm of the protests saw statues of historical figures associated with slavery pulled down - and one of Winston Churchill outside Parliament defaced with graffiti accusing him of racism.

The British arm of the protests saw statues of historical figures associated with slavery pulled down - and one of Winston Churchill outside Parliament defaced with graffiti accusing him of racism.

The British arm of the protests saw statues of historical figures associated with slavery pulled down – and one of Winston Churchill outside Parliament defaced with graffiti accusing him of racism.

Asked on radio station LBC if she would be prepared to take a knee, Ms Patel replied: 'No I wouldn't - there are other ways to have those discussions...

Asked on radio station LBC if she would be prepared to take a knee, Ms Patel replied: 'No I wouldn't - there are other ways to have those discussions...

Asked on radio station LBC if she would be prepared to take a knee, Ms Patel replied: ‘No I wouldn’t – there are other ways to have those discussions…

Footballers continue to take a knee before matches, including at the Barnsley v Chelsea FA Cup game in Yorkshire last night (pictured)

Footballers continue to take a knee before matches, including at the Barnsley v Chelsea FA Cup game in Yorkshire last night (pictured)

Footballers continue to take a knee before matches, including at the Barnsley v Chelsea FA Cup game in Yorkshire last night (pictured)

Knee bother: what ministers have said about BLM gesture

Priti Patel is not the only Cabinet minister to refuse to ‘take a knee’ to support Black Lives Matter.

The political gesture stems from a protest by American footballer Colin Kaepernick. 

He famously knelt for the US national anthem before playing for the San Francisco 49ers, to demonstrate against police brutality.

He is believed to have taken the idea from how the US military honour fallen comrades.

Boris Johnson last year refused to copy the protest position, insisting people should not be ‘bullied’ into making ‘gestures’.

The PM said he was focused on the ‘substance’ of changing social attitudes and improving opportunities for ethnic minorities.

The comments in a phone-in on LBC radio last July, came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the previous month that he would not either.

Mr Raab faced a backlash after saying it seemed to be a symbol of ‘subjugation’ like something out of Game of Thrones, and the only two people he knelt for were the Queen and his wife when he proposed.

Environment Secretary George Eustice also criticised BLM last year, saying: ‘My personal view is that Black Lives Matter, capital B, L, and M, is actually a political movement, which is different from what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.’

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly, whose mother was from Sierra Leone, backed Mr Eustice and said: ‘I don’t take the knee and I’ve been fighting racism both personally and in politics my whole life. It’s not my thing and I don’t think people should be criticised for not doing it.’

However, Schools Minister Nick Gibb last year said he would we willing to do so ‘in the right circumstances’.

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It came after Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Sadiq Khan of overseeing ‘loony left-wing wheezes’  over a new body that could remove statues and alter street names in the capital that are deemed offensive.

The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm includes an academic who implied that all international examples of white supremacy can be traced back to Britain, and a campaigner who once confronted the Queen to demand she apologise for historical injustices.     

The homepage of the commission notes that London’s statues, plaques and street names ‘largely reflect a bygone era’ and it seeks to improve diversity in public spaces.

It prompted a colourful response from patrician Mr Rees-Mogg, who branded the mayor ‘Red Khan’. 

The Commons Leader said councils should be responsible for naming streets, with the MP for North East Somerset advising Sadiq Khan to not ‘interfere in things that aren’t his responsibility’. 

‘Who would have thought that you’d have a more left-wing leader of London than Ken Livingstone? And now we do, and Red Khan is he,’ Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons.

‘It is quite wrong that these loony left-wing wheezes should be inflicted upon our great metropolis, and I think the mayor in his zeal is potentially treading on the toes of councils anyway – that councils have the right to name streets, by and large, not the Mayor of London, and I don’t think he should interfere in things that aren’t his responsibility.

‘As I was saying on the honours list, we should celebrate and glory in our wonderful history and in the great heroes of our nation going back over centuries.’

It came as Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the City of London risks damaging its ‘rich history’ if it goes through with a BLM-inspired bid to topple two statues. 

 The City of London Corporation last month declared it would remove two huge artworks depicting ex-Lord Mayor William Beckford and philanthropist MP Sir John Cass from its Guildhall headquarters over their historic links to the slave trade.

A spokesman for the Mayor of London said in a statement: ‘The mayor makes absolutely no apology for creating a commission to help ensure everyone can take pride in our city’s public landscape.

‘London is one of the most richly diverse cities in the world, yet our public spaces don’t fully represent who we are and the values of tolerance and inclusion that lie at the heart of our city.

‘By bringing together a range of people, through an open selection process, with proven leadership ability, expertise and influence, the commission will work with councils and partners to ensure we tell the full story of our capital.

Labour leader Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner taking a knee last year

Labour leader Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner taking a knee last year

Labour leader Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner taking a knee last year

‘It’s a great pity that the minister seems to have no interest in that diverse history being told.’

The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, defended Mr Rees-Mogg’s use of the word ‘loony’.

Asked about the remarks during a Westminster briefing, she said: ‘I don’t think it is as bad as some of the language I have seen and heard.’

She said she would not be ‘particularly upset’ if such a term was used against her, when it was put to her that the term derives from the term ‘lunatic’.

Councillors in the City are set to discuss the statue proposals – laid out in a report by its Tackling Racism Taskforce – in a private meeting today. 

But Mr Jenrick is understood to have written to senior officials, including the Lord Mayor William Russell, urging them to leave the statue where it is.

He said it is in the ‘City’s own interests that heritage and tradition are given robust protection’ in a letter seen by The Daily Telegraph.

He stressed that while ‘history is ridden with moral complexity’, ministers want local authorities to ‘retain and explain – not remove – our heritage’.

Mr Jenrick pointed out that the plans for a new law on cultural and historic heritage were already in motion which would give the the Secretary extra powers to block statue removals.

It means that if any council intends to grant permission for removal of a particular statue but Historic England objects to it, he gets the final say.

In January, the Communities Secretary pointed out that the plan would stop statues being removed by the ‘decree of a cultural committee of town hall militants and woke worthies’.

But even with the proposed law change, The City of London Corporation’s Policy and Resources Committee announced it had voted to remove the statues of Mr Beckford and Sir John from their historic Guildhall headquarters.

The statue of William Beckford – a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves – will be removed, re-sited and replaced with a new artwork.

Meanwhile, the likeness of Sir John Cass – a 17th and 18th century merchant, MP and philanthropist who also profited from the slave trade – will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation.

Responding to Mr Jenrick’s letter, the council insisted removing them was the ‘correct’ thing to do and all planning permission procedures – and Government guidelines – will be followed. 

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  1. I DON’T BELIEVE THAT THIS IS MJ.
    WHAT DO YOU THINK?

    By COSMO. Posted March 8 2009 at 4:04 PM.

    Michael is going to show these amateur’s of today how it is done.

    By Mark. Posted March 8 2009 at 3:20 PM.

    Well he certainly ROCKS MY WORLD.

    LEGEND!

    By Emma. Posted March 8 2009 at 3:10 PM.

    Is it because hes black or white..never heard a lot of bad comment when we all withness the so called “ELVIS“

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