Alex Winter, The Sun, June 14, 2020
A police force has urged its officers to ‘take the knee’ in support of Black Lives Matter protesters – or face trouble from protesters.
Hertfordshire Constabulary says those who don’t kneel at rallies “may become the focus of the protesters’ attention”.
Top officers issued the advice during a recent operational briefing for ‘Op Velour’, the force’s response to protests.
They pointed out that when officers kneel – a symbolic stance of the Black Lives Matter movement – it has a “positive reaction on the protest groups”.
A document on the advice reads: “Officers are to be mindful that this is optional and those who do not do so may become the focus of protesters’ attention.
“This has a very positive and engaging effect and when taken by officers, has a positive reaction on the protest groups.”
The Home Counties force has faced criticism of the way it handled a Black Lives Matter protest in town Hoddeson last week, HertsLive reports.
Hecklers cut short a peaceful demonstration by yelling racist abuse, while video from the incident records one man shouting: “Go back to Africa.”
Although officers stationed themselves between the two groups, no arrests were made, and the force has now launched an investigation.
The force’s directive on taking the knee has angered some, and a senior detective labelled it “absurd”.
‘POLICE AREN’T THERE TO MAKE POLITICAL STATEMENTS’
He told the Mail on Sunday: “Will officers be expected to make similarly appeasing gestures at political events – far-right protests, for instance?”
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett is among the politicians who have warned that the action risks drawing police into politics.
He said: “I am concerned that the gesture of kneeling, though prompted by the best instincts, might give the perception of undermining the role of the police in such situations.
“They are there to ensure a safe demonstration, not to make political statements.”
Hertfordshire police officials said: “Officers working at events involving the Black Lives Matters movement are free to demonstrate their personal support by ‘taking the knee’ should they wish.
“The force has not sought to either encourage or discourage this action, which remains a personal choice.”
People across the world have been encouraged to ‘take the knee’ as part of a Stand Up To Racism campaign.
It follows the death of George Floyd at the hands of US police.
The incident has sparked protests around the world.
During a rally in London in early June, some Met Police officers were pictured kneeling outside Downing Street.
Around 15,000 people joined the Black Lives Matter rally in central London, and there were cheers as those policing the crowds near No10 took a knee.
But the mood later turned ugly as a small minority of people at the rally clashed with the officers.
There were more problems yesterday as statue row protesters fought running battles with rival activists and charged at riot cops in central London.
More than 100 have now been arrested.