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

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.

Black Lives Matter organisers for the Protest Match to Hyde Park was FANTABULOUS! Thank you for standing up to Racism!WITH YOU! Ours in York outside York Minster looked small because of Social Distancing Rules but don’t doubt our Resolve! Racism Violets and Blasphemes against God!

— John Sentamu (@JohnSentamu) June 3, 2020

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.

Let’s just recall who the people were throwing CDM threats around over observing the lockdown? Deplorable.

— Robin Ward (@RobinWa01061978) June 3, 2020

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.

Anglican clergyman entering church to pray: BAD.

More than six people gathering together to have a bbq: BAD

Thousands gathering in contravention of the law: GOOD

...and if we have a spike in an infection which affects BAME people particularly badly?

— Fr Mark Elliott Smith (@MarkElliottSmi1) June 4, 2020

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

I was very clear on Radio 4 that social distancing was vital! Looking at pictures this was not a BAME Rally! It was a Justice Rally Please join in

— John Sentamu (@JohnSentamu) June 3, 2020

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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