In a Twitter essay posted on Friday morning, Johnson launched into a targeted criticism of the current Black Lives Matter protesters in the UK: the continuing effort to tear down statues of figures who profited from the slave trade.
It comes amid global protests on police brutality and race relations, with protesters recently throwing a statue of noted slave trader Edward Colston into a Bristol harbor.
London mayor Sadiq Khan earlier in the week announced plans to create a commission aimed at reviewing statues, plaques and street names in London to more “suitably reflect London’s achievements and diversity.”
Johnson called it an “absurd and shameful” display that works to create a “lie” about British history. He expressed his concerns as a statue of Winston Churchill has been boarded up for protection ahead of more protests this weekend.
The statue of Churchill had previously been defaced during protests, with the words “was a racist” scrawled across the base.
“We cannot now try to edit or censor our past,” he tweeted. “We cannot pretend to have a different history.”
Johnson mainly appealed to the sense of a changing time, that the figures of the past had “different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong.”
“To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come,” he added.
The prime minister went on to voice concerns that the movement has been hijacked by extremists to indulge in violence, a sentiment that echoes similar concerns the U.S. faced throughout the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
The U.S. has seen a rash of statue demolitions as protesters have taken it into their own hands to tear down statues of former Confederate officers. Officials in several cities are planning to officially remove the statues.
The most recent focus has been on the removal of Christopher Columbus statues, with one statue in Boston beheaded by protesters.