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Health secretary Matt Hancock has pleaded with the public to avoid anti-racism protests which break lockdown rules this weekend as “coronavirus remains a threat”.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing on Friday, as campaigns such as Black Lives Matter were planning weekend demonstrations across the UK, the minister urged people not to gather in large groups “for the safety of your loved ones”.
It comes after the brutal killing of Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a US police officer last week sparked demonstrations worldwide.
The health secretary reminded people of the rules, which say people cannot gather in groups of more than six people – maintaining a two-metre distance – in order to stem the spread of Covid-19.
He said: “Ahead of this weekend, when I know there are plans for further protests, I want to say something to you as health secretary,” he said. “Like so many I am appalled by the death of George Floyd and I understand why people are deeply upset but we are still facing a health criss and coronavirus remains a real threat.
“And the reason that it is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend is to protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease.
“So please for the safety of your loved ones, do not attend large gatherings, including demonstrations, of more than six people.
“We all need to stay alert, control the virus and save lives.”
Asked whether police would be asked to disperse crowds, Hancock said that was “an operational matter for the police”.
Donald Trump further angered anti-racism campaigners this week with a series of inflammatory comments, culminating in him threatening to call in the military to quell protests.
Invited earlier in the week to challenge the US president, Boris Johnson refused to criticise him directly, replying to a journalist’s question by saying: “We mourn George Floyd and I was appalled and sickened to see what happened to him and my message to president Trump, to everybody in the United States, from the UK is that I don’t think racism – and I’m sure it’s an opinion shared by an overwhelming majority of people round the world – racism and racist violence has no place in our society.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.