- Boris Johnson said he 'doesn't believe in gestures' when asked on 'taking knee'
- The PM said he is focused on the 'substance' and people should not be 'bullied'
- Dominic Raab said last month he viewed the action as symbol of 'subjugation'
Boris Johnson today made clear he would not 'take the knee' with Black Lives Matter protesters - insisting people should not be 'bullied' into making 'gestures'.
The PM said he was focused on the 'substance' of changing social attitudes and improving opportunities for ethnic minorities.
The comments, in a phone-in on LBC radio, came after Dominic Raab said last month that he would not personally 'take the knee' - a demonstration of support that has swept the world since the death of George Floyd in the US.
The Foreign Secretary faced a backlash after saying it seemed to be a symbol of 'subjugation' and the only two people he knelt for were the Queen and his wife when he proposed.
Pressed this morning on whether he would 'take the knee', Mr Johnson said: ''I don't believe in gestures. I believe i substance. I believe in doing things that make a practical difference.'
He cited his record as London mayor on improving diversity, saying there had been significant improvements in the past decade, and stressed he wanted to get more black representation in the Cabinet.
'That what I want to see,' Mr Johnson said. 'I would rather see a story of championing success and taking about the opportunities that we can open...
'Of course there are injustices that we need to rectify, there is prejudice, of course there is prejudice out there.'
Mr Johnson said his concern was that he did not 'want people to be bullied into doing things that they don't necessarily want to do'.
'If you think what happened with those police officers standing at the Cenotaph. They were being really insulted in quite aggressive terms and being told to take the knee,' he said.
'Some of them did. It was very difficult then for the other who didn't... I think it is very very important that you don't do things that make life difficult or embarrassing.'
When it was pointed out senior police had now instructed officers not to take the knee on duty, Mr Johnson 'I do agree with that.'
It emerged this week that soldiers have been banned from 'taking the knee' because it is deemed too political.
Commanders warned personnel at HMS Sultan in Gosport, Hampshire, that when in uniform they could not partake in the action.
Defence officials are currently reviewing the policy to see if there's any leeway where they can show their respect in other ways.
In a TalkRadio interview last month, Mr Raab said the gesture 'feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than one of liberation and emancipation'.
He accepted other people 'feel differently' and insisted he understood the 'frustration' felt by oppressed communities, but added: 'I take the knee for two people, the Queen and the Mrs when I asked her to marry me.'
He said: 'I've got to say on this taking the knee thing – I don't know maybe its got a broader history but it seems to me to be taken from the Game of Thrones – feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than one of liberation and emancipation.
'But I understand people feel differently about it so it's a matter of personal choice.'
The remarks drew immediate anger, with MPs including Labour's Diane Abbott condemning Mr Raab for not knowing the origins of the protest.
Mr Raab later tried to cool the situation by tweeting that he had 'full respect' for the BLM movement and people were entitled to 'choose' whether to take the knee.
The 'taking the knee' protest was started in 2016 by American football player Colin Kaepernick.
He famously knelt for the US national anthem before playing for the San Francisco 49ers, to demonstrate against police brutality.
Kaepernick said at the time: 'I am not going to get up to show pride in a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.
'To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.'
The action was hugely controversial in the US, with critics saying it disrespected soldiers and the flag. It was banned by the NFL amid anger from Donald Trump, and many believe it destroyed Kaepernick's career.
It has been widely adopted around the world following George Floyd's death, and was used by Premier League footballers before matches last night.