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Archbishop of York in Twitter spat over social distancing at Black Lives Matter protests

by Heather Preston

The Archbishop of York has come under criticism for supporting anti-racism protests that took place in central London yesterday, following concerns social distancing measures were not adhered too.

Rt Rev Dr John Sentamu came under fire on Twitter after he praised Black Lives Matter organisers for their demonstration in London's Hyde Park on Wednesday, which saw thousands gather to call for justice for unarmed black man George Floyd, who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes in Minneapolis.

In response, a number of Christians from across the breadth of the church commented that it was "irresponsible" and "deplorable" of the Archbishop to advocate such a large gathering under the current UK lockdown restrictions, particularly given that Anglican churches have been banned from holding mass gatherings.

Rev Robin Ward, who is the Principle of St Steven's House Oxford said: "Let's just recall who the people were throwing CDM [Clergy Disciplinary Measure] threats around over observing the lockdown? Deplorable," referring to a previous insistence from Church of England bishops for members of the clergy to observe social distancing.

Catholic priest Martin Elliott Smith also waded in, highlighting the increased risk of infection to members of the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) community.

Sentamu addressed the objections by insisting he sees "social distancing as vital" and that the London rally was not exclusive to ethnic minorities. 

The Archbishop joined a vigil outside York Minster, in which some 100 people dropped down on one knee in silent protest, which he says looked smaller due to a desire to observe the two metre rule.

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