People should not feel “bullied” into taking the knee, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking on LBC on Friday, Johnson acknowledged that there are “injustices and prejudice” that need to be rectified in the UK, but said: “I don’t want people to be bullied into doing things that they don’t necessarily want to do at any given moment.”
The symbolic move was popularised in 2016 when National Football League star Colin Kaepernick got down on one knee while the US national anthem played before games, to protest against racism and police brutality. It has become more widespread in the wake of global demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
Asked if he would take the knee, the Prime Minister said: “I don’t believe in gestures. I believe in substance. I believe in doing things that make a practical difference.”
“If you think of what happened with those officers standing at the Cenotaph…they were being insulted in quite aggressive terms by some members of the crowd and told to take the knee.
This came a month after Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said he would not take the knee in support of the BLM movement, arguing that protest is “a matter of personal choice”
Instead of kneeling in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests, Mr Johnson said he would rather do things that made a “practical difference”.
He told listeners: “I’d rather see a story of championing success and talking about the opportunities we can open for young black people. That’s what I want to see.”
The PM also said he was ‘going to put his hands up’ to the fact there are no black senior ministers and accepted his government ‘needed to make progress on this’.