A former Home Secretary has voiced concerns over police officers taking the knee during protests, saying it may leave some people “deeply uneasy”.
Writing in the Daily Mail, David Blunkett spoke of his “lifelong loathing” of racism but said he felt uneasy after hearing reports that some police officers had taken the knee during protests in London.
Several officers made the spontaneous gesture during Black Lives Matter protests in the capital, echoing similar action taken by their counterparts at some protests in America.
Protests have taken place across the UK following the death of George Floyd, who died after a white officer, Derek Chauvin, held him down by pressing a knee into his neck for several minutes in Minneapolis on May 25. Chauvin has been charged with murder.
Blunkett, who served as home secretary under Tony Blair from 2001 to 2004, said while “on the face of it” the officers should be commended, he was concerned that the move could give the perception of undermining the police.
He wrote: “If we could halt hatred by going down on one knee, I am quite certain just about everyone in Britain would join in gladly, and at once.
“But 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. Though many have commended the officers’ actions, many others, of all creeds and colours, may have been left deeply uneasy at the sight of police kneeling before a protesting crowd.”
A Met Police spokesman said: “We know passions are running high and like everyone we were appalled by the images of George Floyd losing his life.
“Our officers are part of the communities of London and care deeply about justice and equality.
“Taking the knee is a personal decision for officers. However, it is not safe or appropriate to do so in public order situations.
“In other scenarios officers are free to do so at their own discretion – where it is safe to do so and does not interfere with operational duties.”
The Police Federation said it was not commenting at this time.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, previously told MailOnline that his colleagues kneeling down was a show of empathy and respect.
He said: “I think that by those officers taking a knee during the protests yesterday shows that we are human beings. I think it shows that we try to understand what is put in front of us in a very difficult situation.”