North Wales Police chief tells people not to attend Black Lives Matter protests due to risk of spreading coronavirus
The chief constable of North Wales Police has told people not to attend Black Lives Matter protests due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
A number of peaceful protests were held across the region last weekend, including in Wrexham and Bangor.
Police chief Carl Foulkes said he understood the reason for the demonstrations, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd in America after an officer pressed his knee on his neck for several minutes.
However, he encouraged protesters to find different ways to show their feelings after a teenage girl from Pwllheli arranged a virtual protest to back the cause earlier this week.
In a video message, he said: “Over the last two weeks, we have seen events both in America and close to home that have brought policing into sharp focus.
“I think it would be difficult for anyone not to be impacted on by the tragic event in America and subsequent scenes around the world in support of Black Lives Matters.
“We have seen a number of events of support locally and my thanks go to everyone who has protested peacefully across North Wales.
“But we are still in a health pandemic with COVID-19 and I would ask both those considering organizing an event or attending one, please make your voice heard in other ways and don’t put each other, my officers and communities at risk.”
Mr Foulkes described Mr Floyd’s death as “tragic” and said it was important for the force to work with communities to tackle racism and injustice.
He also voiced frustration at the violence directed towards officers in London, whilst acknowledging there was more police could do more to improve diversity.
He said: “I was deeply saddened to see the serious levels of violence aimed at colleagues in the march over the weekend and actually overnight.
“It is difficult to understand the mindset the police officers deserve to be attacked because of the actions of others. Violence achieved absolutely nothing.
“We must always remember that the police are the community and the community are the police.
“I was an officer in London when the report and to Steven Lawrence’s death was published, and both saw the felt the impact this landmark report had on policing.
“I genuinely believe police in our country have come a long way, but the events of the last few weeks right, the challenge is to ask have we done enough, gone far enough and challenged enough?
“It would be easy in so many areas to point to the excellent work that is done on daily basis across North Wales to ensure our force is representative, engaged and relevant to our diverse communities, but when we look at the stark facts around disproportionality, we need to do more.”
His views were also echoed during today’s Welsh Government press conference by First Minister Mark Drakeford.
When asked whether he agreed with the Mayor of London that people should stay at home, he said: “I always said that I completely understand and share the outrage that underpins the Black Lives Matter protests, but there are ways in which people can make their concerns known that do not involve breaking the law and putting yourself and other people in danger from coronavirus.
“I know that there are online protests, for example, being organized here in Wales over this weekend.
“People should join an online protest, people should sign petitions, they should join organizations and they should use all those other ways in which this very important movement can gather the support that it needs and merits.
“But doing it in a way that puts protesters themselves and other people at an avoidable risk is not something to be recommended.”
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