Black Lives Matter protests have been held around the world in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
The black American died after a white Minneapolis police officer was filmed pinning him to the ground by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Demonstrations have been held across the UK in support of the global movement, and most protesters have been peaceful.
Patel tweeted the front page of the Daily Mail this morning, which carried a picture of Winston Churchill’s statue, outside parliament, which had been graffitied with a slogan saying he was a racist.
The front page also showed the statue of 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston being torn down by protesters in Bristol.
These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery.— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) June 8, 2020
Justice will follow. pic.twitter.com/CL3gfOthkg
Her comments followed Boris Johnson, who used the exact same phrase as Patel on 7 June. Patel was among a number of Tory MPs to tweet their upset at the vandalism.
People have a right to protest peacefully & while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police. These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery - and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve. Those responsible will be held to account.— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 7, 2020
The Tory candidate for mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, has called on Sadiq Khan to “speak up” about the graffiti on Churchill’s statue.
Tweeting on Sunday, Khan said “this vital cause was badly let down by a tiny minority who turned violent”.
Churchill was a hero. He led this country when we stood alone in the fight against fascism.— Shaun Bailey (@ShaunBaileyUK) June 7, 2020
My granddad volunteered from Jamaica to join his war effort.
Without him, we’d be without the freedoms that these protesters are exercising today.@sadiqkhan, when will you speak up? https://t.co/ulKQ4BAE0M
The vast majority of protestors in London were peaceful. But this vital cause was badly let down by a tiny minority who turned violent. This is simply not acceptable, will not be tolerated and will not win the lasting and necessary change we desperately need to see. 2/3— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 7, 2020
Scotland Yard said 36 people were arrested and 35 officers were injured after bottles and other objects were thrown during Sunday’s protest in central London.
Photos on Monday morning show Churchill’s statue being cleaned up.
Patel’s comments follow those of crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse, who told the BBC he wanted to see people involved in tearing down Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol be prosecuted.
“A crime was committed, criminal damage was committed, there should be evidence gathered and a prosecution should follow,” he said.
“There is an elected mayor of Bristol, there is a council in Bristol and it is via those democratic means that we will resolve these issues in this country – not by people showing up with ropes and tools and committing criminal damage.”
The statue was later thrown into Bristol harbour.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC: “It shouldn’t be done in that way. Completely wrong to pull a statute down like that.
“But, stepping back, that statue should have been… taken down a long, long time ago.
“You can’t, in 21st-century Britain, have a slaver on a statue.”
Colston donated money to causes in Bristol but it is thought that much of the wealth he invested came from his involvement in the slave trade.
Marvin Rees, the Labour mayor of Bristol, said he felt no loss for the statue, but told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As an elected politician, obviously I cannot condone the damage and I am very concerned about the implications of a mass gathering on the possibility of a second COVID wave.”
Police Federation chairman John Apter, discussing the police response in Bristol, said: “I understand the anger but not to have a police presence there was something – I have been a police officer for 27 years – that was a decision I have not seen taken before.”
Avon and Somerset Police superintendent Andy Bennett said the 10,000 people who attended the protest in Bristol were mostly peaceful.
“However, there was a small group of people who clearly committed an act of criminal damage in pulling down a statue near Bristol Harbourside,” he said.
“An investigation will be carried out to identify those involved and we’re already collating footage of the incident.”