QPR players all took the knee and linked arms with the rival Millwall side at tonight’s game after fans had booed footballers for associating with the ‘extreme’ Black Lives Matter group on Saturday.
Millwall players held an anti-racism banner that said ‘inequality’ with the ‘in’ crossed out on the halfway line in The Den in South London. The QPR side then linked arms with Millwall players and took the knee, just days after crowds berated players at Millwall’s Derby fixture for dropping to the ground ahead of kick-off.
Football fans applauded the anti-racist display, and there have been no reports of dissent – though any boos would have been drowned out by loud music which was being blasted by the venue.
Players were braced for repeated hostility after supporters defended the actions of the hecklers, who were supposedly lashing out at the political views of the BLM movement.
Taking the knee is closely associated with BLM, which has been accused of straying beyond its anti-racism origins and becoming a brazen Left-wing political organisation.
BLM, which came to global prominence after George Floyd’s death, has called for the abolition of the police and the capitalist system which has underpinned Western society since 1945.
Spectators entering the stadium tonight received a letter from Millwall which asked them to respect ‘those opposition players taking the knee’ – calling it ‘their right to do so’.
Millwall players hold up a ‘United for Change’ banner before the match at The Den
QPR players linked arms with their rivals and took the knee, just days after crowds berated players in Millwall’s Derby fixture for dropping to the ground ahead of kick-off
Millwall’s Mahlon Romeo raises his fist in the air prior to kick-off during the Sky Bet Championship match at The Den, London
QPR players kneel before the match while a large TV screen says ‘Inequality, United for Change’
Millwall players held an anti-racism banner that said ‘inequality’ with the ‘in’ crossed out on the halfway line at The Den in South London
Black Lives Matter: Group wants to abolish the police, smash capitalism and close all prisons
Black Lives Matter UK is the semi-official British offshoot of its American counterpart and has been the face of the UK’s protests over George Floyd’s death and racial equailty.
But while hundreds of thousands of people have donated millions to their cause, many will be unaware on many of the group’s more extreme aims.
The UK branch, just like the American arm of the movement, has a number of far-Left aims listed on its wesbite.
They include the Marxist ‘commitment to dismantle capitalism’.
Elsewhere the group says it wants to use money it has raised to develop and deliver strategies ‘for the abolition of the police’.
The official Twitter account of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) UK movement has also been caught up in an antisemitism row.
It tweeted in support of Palestine over plans by Israel to annex its West Bank settlements.
The verified account claimed mainstream British politics were being ‘gagged of the right to critique Zionism,’ before Tweeting that the movement ‘loudly and clearly stands beside our Palestinian comrades’ and adding in block capitals ‘FREE PALESTINE’.
It sparked anger among the Jewish community, with some describing the idea of politicians being ‘gagged’ over their criticism of Zionism as being an ‘antisemitic trope’.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said: ‘BLM should aspire to be a movement against racism that unifies people and achieves lasting change, not a movement that spreads hatred and achieves lasting division.
‘You cannot fight prejudice with prejudice.’
The group has been active online since mid-2016.
In December that year it endorsed the complete closure of all Britain’s prisons and detention centres, saying they were ‘inhumane, overcrowded and unsafe’.
The group has also expressed its opposition on Twitter to government initiatives including reform of the benefits system via the introduction of Universal Credit and the licensing of fracking.
It has attacked everyone from Oxfam (‘big charities are nothing more than colonisers for the 21st century’) to Sir David Attenborough.
The club called tonight’s game ‘one of the most important days in Millwall’s history’, adding: ‘Last night the club released a statement announcing its new United for Change initiative.
‘Lions fans from all over the world were unanimous in their support. It is your duty and responsibility as a member of the crowd tonight to continue that superb backing.
‘Before kick-off, our players and those from QPR, will link arms in a show of unity and togetherness towards the fight against discrimination. We know that the crowd, as has always been the case, will be fully supportive of that gesture.
‘As also was made clear last night, we ask that those opposition players taking the knee are respected, as it is their right to do so.
‘The eyes of the world are on this football club tonight – your club – and they want us to fail. Together as one, we will not let that happen.’
Millwall had previously said it was ‘dismayed and saddened’ by last weekend’s behaviour and warned anybody found guilty of racial abuse would be handed a lifetime ban.
A statement from the Millwall Supporters’ Club on Sunday said ‘We fervently believe that the motives of those behind the booing were not racist.’
It added: ‘Anyone who believes it was a racist act should read the views of those who booed and see they were doing it in reaction to the war memorials and statues of (Winston) Churchill defaced by the BLM organisation and the extreme political views they hold and for which ‘taking the knee’ is associated with.’
A senior source at Millwall had told Sky Sports News that some of Millwall’s staff and players were ‘left in tears’ by the hecklers and the condemnation that followed.
Cabinet minister George Eustice waded into the row on Sunday, calling Black Lives Matter ‘actually a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality’.
He told Sky News: ‘My personal view is that Black Lives Matter, capital B, L and M, is actually a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.
‘Each individual can take their own choices about how they reflect this. I know a number of people feel quite strongly and have taken that approach.’
Football players had privately discussed walking off the pitch if their pre-game gestures are booed, sources told Sportsmail.
Watford captain Troy Deeney publicly said he would have no issue abandoning the match if faced with racism.
He told talkSport: ‘When they boo, I’ll still be there. But if it gets to that line of racial things being said to me or my players, we’ve already had a conversation about what happens. We walk, simple.’
The club said in a statement: ‘Players from Millwall and Queens Park Rangers will stand arm-in-arm with each other in a show of solidarity for football’s fight against discrimination ahead of kick-off at The Den on Tuesday night.’
It added: ‘Millwall believe that this gesture, which the club hopes to repeat with other visiting teams in the coming weeks and months, will help to unify people throughout society in the battle to root out all forms of discrimination.
‘QPR have informed Millwall that a selection of their players wish to take the knee as a way of showing their support for anti-discrimination efforts – a gesture which the club respects and it firmly asks all those in attendance to do likewise.’
Millwall also said they had started an ‘audit of board members, staff, volunteers and participants as part of an ongoing commitment towards equality, diversity and inclusion’.
It comes after Millwall fans booed players taking the knee before their game against Derby
The FA have now launched an investigation into what happened at the Den on the weekend
The BLM movement, which has snowballed in support in the wake of George Floyd’s death, has been accused of straying beyond its anti-racism origins and becoming a brazen left-wing organisation. Pictured: Protesters in Notting Hill in west London on August 30
The club added that a ‘new widespread and multi-faceted anti-discrimination strategy’ would include ‘the formation of an equality, diversity and inclusion code of practice to cover departments throughout the club’s activities and recruitment processes.’
QPR, which stopped taking the knee in September amid concerns the action had become ‘diluted’, also released a statement ahead of the game.
Chief executive Lee Hoos said: ‘We have always been at the forefront of encouraging equality and diversity while tackling discrimination in all its forms. Our initial approach to this particular situation was for all our players to take the knee in a show of solidarity.
‘However, following a series of discussions with Millwall, as well as internal conversations involving myself, director of football Les Ferdinand, manager Mark Warburton and the entire first team squad, it was agreed that standing shoulder to shoulder with our opposition players would be a more powerful response.
‘On top of this, some of our players wish to take the knee and we fully support this action.’
A statement from the FA earlier on Monday said: ‘The FA can confirm that investigations are under way into crowd-related incidents at both The Den and JobServe Community Stadium on Saturday 5 December 2020.
‘Observations have been sought from all of the relevant parties and they will have until Thursday 10 December 2020 to provide their respective responses.’