A teenager has been charged with criminal damage after the words ‘is a racist’ were spray-painted onto the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square.
Benjamin Clark, 18, from Hertford, is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on October 9, the Metropolitan Police said.
He was arrested after the monument to the former prime minister was defaced on Thursday with yellow graffiti during an Extinction Rebellion protest.
It’s the third time this year the same statue has been vandalised. In June the words ‘was a racist’ were written onto the plinth during a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
Speaking about the latest incident, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said yesterday: ‘This appalling vandalism is completely unacceptable. It will be fully investigated and the statue will be cleaned as quickly as possible.’
Clark was one of at least 680 people arrested in connection with 10 days of Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
Others have been held on suspicion of obstructing the highway and breaching conditions of protest set under the Public Order Act.
Commander Jane Connors described the protests as a ‘significant challenge’ during a ‘public health crisis’.
‘The public have a right to protest, but they do not have a right to cause disruption to the communities and businesses across London. That is why we took swift action to make a number of arrests,’ she said.
‘This has been a large policing operation and we will continue to investigate those who we suspect to have committed offences, so the number of arrests is likely to rise.’
The Churchill statue had to be boarded up to prevent further damage during another anti-racism protest earlier this year, something the Prime Minister Boris Johnson called ‘absurd and shameful.’
A group of far-right protestors held a counter rally to ‘defend the statue’ but one of their number caused outrage by urinating on a policeman’s memorial.
Churchill has become a target because of a number of racist comments he made during his two stints as British Prime Minister. His defenders say he was merely using the language of the time.
He’s also said to have ‘significantly contributed’ to the deaths of millions during the 1943-44 Bengal famine. Historians say his Government withheld urgent food supplies in part because of Churchill’s attitude towards the Indian people.
The toppling of the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol earlier this year sparked a big debate about Britain’s past and who deserves to be honoured with a statue.
Winston Churchill’s granddaughter Emma Soames has previously said the Parliament Square monument may have to be put in a museum if it keeps being vandalised.
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