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Man suffers vile racist and homophobic abuse while photographing Sir Robert Peel ‘statue protection’ protest

Lily Wakefield June 23, 2020
Robert Peel Glasgow's Robert Peel Statue Becomes Focal Point For Protests

The Loyalist Defence League has asked followers to gather in George Square over the weekend for a 'protect the Cenotaph' event in response to statues being defaced across Scotland following BLM demonstrations. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

Police are appealing for witnesses after a man who was photographing a Sir Robert Peel “statue protection” protest in Glasgow said he suffered racist and homophobic abuse.

Statues of Sir Robert Peel, 18th century prime minister and founder of the Metropolitan Police, exist in multiple UK cities and have been included on a list of potential targets since the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol earlier this month. 

On Sunday, June 14, hundreds took part in a “statue protection” protest in George Square, Glasgow, organised by the Loyalist Defence League, which soon descended into chaos and violence.

The far-right Loyalist Defence League is viciously Islamophobic and anti-LGBT+, and the group has even been removed from Facebook for showing “support or praise for terrorist organisations”.

Police are now appealing for witnesses after a man photographing the protest was subjected to vile racist and homophobic abuse.

According to Evening Express, he said that while at the event he was approached by two men who began hurling homophobic and racist abuse.

He tried to move away but was then surrounded by a group of young people who continued to verbally abuse him.

Finally, while trying to leave the protest, three other men targeted him with further racist abuse.

Detective inspector Sarah McArthur said: “This was a frightening experience for the victim.

“The disorder that occurred that day is unacceptable and retrospective inquiries continue.

“I would appeal to the law-abiding people who were in George Square that day who may have witnessed this assault or have any information on the males involved to contact us.

“Any information could assist us in piecing together exactly what happened and identify those responsible.”

Why are anti-racism campaigners targeting statues of Sir Robert Peel?

Anti-racism campaigners admitted to originally referring to the wrong person when calling for the removal of the statues, as Sir Robert Peel’s father, a politician also named Robert Peel, opposed the abolition of slavery.

But a petition for the removal of a statue of Peel in Leeds states: “Peel created the London Metropolitan Police in 1829, the ideas for which he developed while overseeing the British colonial occupation of Ireland.

“He was pivotal in setting up the police forces which maintained British rule in Ireland and a system which led to the poverty, famine and displacement of Irish people. Colonialism and racism – in this case anti-Catholic sentiment – are central to British history.

“Not only that but with the legitimacy of current policing in question, the history of policing, its origins in colonialism and its role in suppressing dissent deserves greater scrutiny.

“Monuments and statues are celebrations of history. We should not celebrate colonisers.

“Peel’s statue belongs in a Museum, as part of an exhibition for others to learn about the history of British colonialism.

“Statues such as these only serve to erase this history and the stories of colonised people.”

More: Glasgow, Homophobia, loyalist defence league, Metropolitan Police, racism, Sir Robert Peel

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