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Boris Johnson ‘stoking fear and division’ ahead of BLM protests | World news

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Boris Johnson was accused of “stoking fear and division” ahead of a weekend of Black Lives Matter demonstrations after he unequivocally condemned the removal of historic statues and claimed the protests had been “hijacked by extremists intent on violence”.

As statues – including of Winston Churchill – were boarded up to protect them ahead of planned marches, the prime minister tweeted his opposition to those calling for memorials with links to slavery and racism to be torn down.

“We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations,” the prime minister wrote.

“They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come.”

Johnson said “we all understand” the “legitimate feelings of outrage” about the police killing of George Floyd in the US last month, but “the only responsible course of action” was to stay away from this weekend’s protests, which he said had been “hijacked by extremists intent on violence”.

The comments, set out in eight tweets, marked a significant escalation in his criticism of the protesters, and sparked a backlash ahead of a potentially febrile weekend, amid concerns over clashes between anti-racist campaigners and “hate groups” including the far-right.

The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, urged Johnson not to be “found wanting” at what he called “a powerful moment in our history”.

Warning that briefings with the police this week had highlighted the risk of “violence on our streets,” he said: “The prime minister should be showing national leadership, by coordinating the government’s response to the complex issues underpinning these protests.

“This means recognising the deep hurt so many black people in our country have spoken so powerfully about, and setting our steps for meaningful action against racism in our country.”

Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat MP and home affairs spokesperson, said: “The Black Lives Matter protests following the horrific killing of George Floyd by a police officer have been overwhelmingly peaceful. The prime minister is stoking division and fear in our communities by suggesting they have been hijacked by extremists.”

The Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “When Boris Johnson was elected last year, he promised he wanted to unite our country. Instead he is taking yet another leaf straight out of Trump’s playbook, and deliberately whipping up his base, to divide and polarise our communities.”

Johnson’s intervention came amid pressure from Tory backbenchers to take a tougher line with protesters. Ben Bradley, MP for Mansfield, tweeted: “This attack on our history [and] our culture [is] increasingly aggravating my constituents. Government need to be absolutely clear and firm on this if we are to keep a lid on increasing tensions.”

Ministers have stressed repeatedly that gatherings of more than six people remain illegal under coronavirus regulations. But protesters said they would not be deterred. While a BLM protest planned for Saturday was called off after busloads of far-right activists were set to descend on London, anti-racist campaigners vowed to keep demonstrating.

Tyrek, 21, an organiser with All Black Lives UK, said of Johnson’s tweets: “This isn’t going to stop us from going out on the streets. It’s within our right to protest. Women’s rights has come from protesting, LGBT rights has come from protesting, any big change has come from protest.”

The protests across the country have been organised sporadically and by individuals not associated with established anti-racist groups in the past two weeks. The organisers of these protests, largely young students, have come together under the umbrella of All Black Lives UK. They are working to facilitate more localised protests.

“We’ve built up momentum from the protests we’ve had and we intend on protesting as much as we can until the government responds to our concerns,” Tyrek said. “This isn’t a fad, this is a movement. It’s got steam now and it is going to continue going ahead.”

On Friday, fresh graffiti appeared on road signs on Penny Lane in Liverpool over claims they are linked to slave merchant James Penny, and on a statue of Robert the Bruce at the site of his most famous battle at Bannockburn. It was painted with the slogan BLM and the words “racist king”. Robert the Bruce was king of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329 and led Scotland during the first war of Scottish independence against England, centuries before the transatlantic slave trade began.

Some leftwing Labour MPs have been keen to see the leadership weigh in on the row more robustly.

Backbencher Clive Lewis, who signed a letter to Priti Patel this week accusing her of “gaslighting” and shutting down debate after citing her own experience of racism, said he hoped his party’s leadership would continue to speak out. “Keir’s taken the knee: he’s picked a side,” he said.

He called for the history curriculum to be changed, so that pupils are taught “the dark side” of Britain’s past – and questioned the use of the word “patriotism”.

“The word patriotism, which Keir came out with the other day: if you take it literally, it means fatherlandism. It’s about colonialism. It’s about empire. It’s jingoistic. It’s got lots of connotations. I think we need to unpack it.” He said Labour should be trying to present “an inclusive idea of what what it means to be British”.

Crowds in Bristol pulled down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston last weekend, sparking a nationwide debate about the future of scores of other monuments to controversial historical figures. All Labour councils in England and Wales announced a review of monuments’ links to slavery.

The Turner-prize winning sculptor Anish Kapoor described Johnson’s opinion on statutes as “bullshit”, telling the Guardian: “Statues are not history, they are emblematic monuments to our past which can be thought to represent how we see ourselves and our history. It is long overdue that we reassess these emblems and get rid of the bigots they portray.

“We must acknowledge the horror perpetrated in our names by these horrid individuals and seek to find nobler ways to make spaces of commemoration and history. This must now mean looking at the forgotten amongst us.”

The perceived threat to the Churchill statue in Parliament Square, Westminster, which was daubed with graffiti at the weekend, was the focus of tweets by the prime minister. Anti-racist campaigners monitoring hate speech say far-right groups have been using the graffiti to stir anger among supporters and would-be recruits.

BLM organisers said they had decided to call off a planned protest at Hyde Park at 1pm on Saturday, and in a video message to supporters, the far-right extremist Tommy Robinson said he would now not be travelling to the capital as it “would be detrimental to racial tensions”.

Police are still expecting protests and laid out conditions that would keep the two sets of demonstrators apart, setting out different routes that they must follow. They ordered that both sets of marchers must disperse by 5pm.

But discussions on far-right online forums and those of some football gangs have now turned to mobilising in other cities and towns including Leeds, Bristol and Sunderland against perceived threats to contested historical monuments.

Far-right activists have also discussed targeting statues such as that of Nelson Mandela, perceived to be associated with their opponents, according to researchers at the campaign group Hope not Hate.

“Many on the far-right who tried to pretend they didn’t care about race, only culture and identity, let the mask slip and openly started talking about whiteness and race again and threatened to pull down the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square,” said Nick Lowles, Hope not Hate’s chief executive.



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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Sunday

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The latest:

  • Brazil’s coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000.
  • India records nearly 64,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.
  • More than 2,700 active cases in Australia’s Victoria state have no known source.
  • U.K. records more than 1,000 new infections for 1st time since late June.

The United States has now recorded more than five million cases of COVID-19, with more than 162,000 deaths, since identifying its first confirmed case of the new respiratory illness in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials believe the actual number is perhaps 10 times higher, or closer to 50 million, given testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40 per cent of all those who are infected have no symptoms.

New cases of infection in the U.S. caused by the novel coronavirus run at about 54,000 a day — and while that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 last month, cases are rising in nearly 20 states.

Figures compiled this week show that five states — California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia — account for more than 40 per cent of infections.

A sign urging people to practice social distancing is seen outside a bar during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., on Sunday. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive actions bypassing Congress to defer payroll taxes for some Americans and extend unemployment benefits after talks on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with priorities unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said Saturday at a news conference at his country club in Bedminster, N.J.

Trump said the payroll tax cut would apply to those earning less than $100,000 a year. Extra aid for the unemployed will total $400 a week, a cut from the $600 that just expired.

He also signed a memorandum holding off student loan payments and an executive order extending the freeze on evictions.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 119,451 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 103,728 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,017.

Ontario reported its sixth-straight day of fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19. There were 70 new cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday and one virus-related death.

In Quebec, the government plans to have students return to classrooms at the end of the month, but some parents want schools to offer an option for online learning.

People wearing face masks attend a mass remember the victims of the explosion in Beirut on Sunday in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 35 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 182 — the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 15 new cases, Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases over the weekend, and Nova Scotia hasn’t seen a new case in a week. Both N.L. and N.S. have one active case each.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases tops 19.7 million and more than 728,000 people have died. The United States has had the most cases, with more than 5 million, followed by Brazil with more than 3 million and India with more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, Greek authorities have announced a record daily number of 203 new coronavirus cases. Beginning Monday and ending Aug. 31, everyone must wear a mask in all retail places, as well as all modes of transport other than private cars, the government has decided. People attending church must also do so, though priests are not required to wear masks in church.

Britain recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections in a day for the first time since late June. Britain has seen a gradual rise in coronavirus infections since it began lifting lockdown restrictions in mid-June. The government has put the next stage of reopening, which had been due to take effect Aug. 1, on hold for at least two weeks.

A cyclist carrying an ad displaying advice on how to slow the spread COVID-19 rides through the streets of Halifax, U.K., on Sunday. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

In Asia-Pacific, the premier of Australia’s Victoria state said more than 2,700 active cases have no known source and remain the primary concern of health authorities. Premier Daniel Andrews said confirmed cases also include almost 1,000 health-care workers. The city of Melbourne has been under tough restrictions since a week ago, including an overnight curfew and mandatory wearing of masks, but officials won’t see the results of their efforts for another one to two weeks.

The Indian Medical Association said 196 doctors have died of COVID-19 so far and, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requested adequate care for physicians and their families. The Health Ministry on Sunday recorded nearly 64,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours for a total of 2,153,010. At least 628,747 patients are still undergoing treatment. India also recorded 861 fatalities, driving the death toll to 43,379.

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment performs a COVID-19 test on a person in New Delhi on Sunday. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Americas, Brazil has surpassed a grim milestone — 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. And five months after the first reported case, the country is showing no signs of crushing the disease.

The country of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May, and 905 were recorded in the latest 24-hour period to put Brazil above 100,000. The Health Ministry also said there have been a total of 3,012,412 confirmed infections. The totals are second only to the United States. And experts believe both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.

The Archbishop of the City of Rio de Janeiro Dom Orani Joao Tempesta wearing a mask during a mass to honour victims COVID-19 at the Christ the Redeemer statue on Sunday. (Andre Coelho/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa’s number of confirmed coronavirus deaths has surpassed 10,000. The Health Department said the country with the world’s fifth-largest caseload now has 553,188 cases and 10,210 deaths.

South Africa makes up more than half the infections on the African continent, where the total number of cases this past week surpassed one million. Experts say the actual number of cases is several times that amount, given the shortage of testing materials and people can have the virus without symptoms.



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Virtual Preparation Allows Miss Nicaragua Amid Pandemic | World News

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — For four months, everything was virtual: the modeling and speech classes, the make-up courses and the emotional support session via videoconference. And when eight contestants vying to be Miss Nicaragua did finally start in-person practices, they did so with masks covering their faces.

“We managed to organize the event under the pandemic with masks, social distancing and little money, (but) with talent and creativity,” said Karen Celebertti, who has been running the pageant for two decades in Nicaragua.

On Saturday night, 23-year-old Ana Marcelo, an agroindustrial engineer from Estelí, was crowned Miss Nicaragua in front of a limited audience (two people per contestant spaced safely) plus a production crew of 85. The masks were off the contestants, but the judges wore them and were spaced at a safe distance.

There were portable handwashing stations and doctors taking temperatures.

Celebertti, herself a former local beauty queen, said they had to “reinvent” themselves to pull it off. The novel coronavirus arrived in March just days after they had selected the contestants. It was delayed from May to August to develop protocols that would allow them to compete safely.

“We had trials and classes through Zoom, supervised by me from home,” Celebertti said. “The girls had a speech coach, an image consultant and stylists online who taught them how to do their hair and put on makeup alone. There was no other option.”

In July, they had their first in-person practices, walks down the runway wearing masks. “Each session was supervised by doctors and no one got infected,” she said.

Unlike the massive religious and sporting events allowed and even promoted by the government during the pandemic, the pageant decided to do without the usual boisterous audience cheering their support for the women.

“Some criticized me for doing this event, but we were very careful to be able to do it,” Celebertti said. “The truth is that the people need to see some good news, be entertained.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Lebanon information minister quits in first cabinet resignation | Beirut explosion

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Lebanon’s information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, has quit in the first government resignation since an explosion in the port of Beirut killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said on Sunday in a statement , apologising to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church called on the entire government to step down over the explosion, widely seen as proof of the rot at the core of the state.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

The Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi joined the chorus of people pressing the prime minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over the explosion which he said could be “described as a crime against humanity”.

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here, or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon. “It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi asked the cabinet to step down. Photograph: Reuters

He echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls – a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, asking for the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt. At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

The Maronite patriarch also joined world leaders, international organisations and the Lebanese public in pressing for an international inquiry into the explosion, which, authorities say, was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

The Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, rejected calls on Friday for an international investigation which, he said, would “dilute the truth”.

Under pressure from the public and foreign partners who are exasperated by the Lebanese leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is looking increasingly unstable.

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