The British tabloids, even the right-wing ones, called Hutchinson a “hero,” and accolades poured forth on social media from politicians and ordinary folk. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said, “Patrick Hutchinson’s instincts in that moment represent the best of us.”
On his Instagram account, Hutchinson wrote, “We saved a life today.”
In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4, the personal trainer and grandfather said he arrived at the scene to see the man on the ground, under attack by protesters.
Hutchinson and his mates formed a cordon around the man.
“If the other three police officers that were standing around when George Floyd was murdered had thought about intervening, and stopping their colleague from doing what he was doing, like what we did, George Floyd would be alive today still,” Hutchinson said, referring to the unarmed black man in Minneapolis who died May 25 after a police officer put a knee to his neck for almost nine minutes.
“I just want equality for all of us,” Hutchinson told broadcasters. “At the moment, the scales are unfairly balanced, and I want things to be fair for my children and my grandchildren.”
The rescue occurred during rallies in London on Saturday, when Black Lives Matter demonstrators had mostly yielded the streets to avoid clashes with far-right counterprotesters, whom organizers had called out to defend national monuments such as the Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square and the Cenotaph memorial near 10 Downing Street, from vandalism.
A week ago, during protests over racism and police brutality, one young man had tried to set alight a Union Flag at the Cenotaph, a memorial to Britain’s war dead. Someone else had tagged the Churchill statue with graffiti calling him a racist, sparking a national debate over the wartime prime minister’s words and actions.
On Saturday, Reuters photographer Dylan Martinez captured the image of Hutchinson emerging from a crowd with the injured man on his shoulder.
Before he shot that frame, Martinez says, he heard a shout, “That’s not what we do!”
“I saw a skirmish and someone falling to the ground,” the photographer told his news organization. “The crowd parted right in front of me. I was in the right place at the right time, and incredibly lucky from that point of view.”
Reuters journalists at the scene reported that the injured man had been beaten by protesters. “Some people in the crowd shouted out that the assault victim was a member of the far right,” the news agency wrote.
The counterprotests Saturday were dominated by clusters of mostly white men, some from far-right groups who claimed they were there to protect statues in Parliament Square, even though the statues had already been boarded up.
Witnesses in London posted cellphone video of one group of men, with cans of beer in their hands, harassing and kicking at picnickers sitting on a lawn in a park. Others were filmed goading and attacking police. Reporters on the scene, some of whom were threatened by counterprotesters, said many of the men appeared drunk.
One far-right counterprotester, Andrew Banks, 28, of Stansted, Essex, was photographed Saturday morning urinating next to a memorial to Keith Palmer, a police officer who was stabbed to death in the 2017 Westminster terrorist attack.
Banks later said he had consumed 16 pints of beer the night before and could not find a toilet. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail for outraging public decency, the Guardian newspaper reported.
In court Monday, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot told Banks: “The irony is that rather than protecting the monuments, you very nearly ended up urinating on one. The harm caused is the upset and shock felt by members of the public who saw the images that generated a strong sense of revulsion.”
The Metropolitan Police said more than 100 people were arrested Saturday.
Pierre Noah, 47, who works with Hutchinson at Ark Protection, a security company that provides clients with bodyguards, told The Washingon Post that the atmosphere on Saturday was “terrible.”
He said there were football hooligans chanting “Go back to Africa, you monkeys.” He said he then noticed that “this guy was in danger, and I was able to shield him, and Patrick and another colleague carried him to safety.”
Noah said, “If we didn’t do what we did, who knows what would have happened to him.”
Both sides “need education,” he said. “If you don’t have education, you don’t have common sense.”
Johnson, who is also a Churchill biographer, said he would do everything in his power to protect the statue of Churchill but called the counterprotesters “far-right thugs and bovver boys.”
A “bovver boy” in British slang is a hooligan, often a skinhead, who creates bother.
“It was right that a good number should have been arrested,” Johnson said in a column in the Daily Telegraph. “They were violent. They were aggressive towards the police. They were patently racist. There is nothing that can excuse their behaviour.”
He pledged to set up a commission to examine racial inequality in Britain.
David Lammy, a Labour politician and author of a 2017 review of inequality in the British criminal justice system, said action is needed, not more reports.
“He’s announced a commission, behind a paywall, in the Telegraph, buried in the middle of yet another article about Churchill. If he was serious, why are there no details?” Lammy told the BBC. “Get on with the action, legislate, move — you’re in government, do something.”