Black Lives Matter protestor, 19, faces jail after admitting trying to set fire to Union Flag


A Black Lives Matter protester faces jail after he admitted attempting to set fire to a Union Jack flag on the Cenotaph during a demonstration in London.

Astrophel Sang, 19, was arrested after footage emerged on social media of him twice attempting to use a lighter to set the flag alight in Whitehall on June 7.     

The teenager, who ‘enjoyed the attention’, was urged by protestors to set fire to the government-owned flame-retardant flag when he climbed on the memorial in London, Westminster Magistrates Court heard.

When Sang was arrested, police claim he said: ‘I didn’t rip it, I tried to set fire to it.’ 

Sang was committed to the Crown Court for sentencing after he indicated a guilty plea to a charge of attempted arson. He could be imprisoned for up to 18 months.   

Astrophel Sang, 19, was arrested after footage emerged on social media of him twice attempting to use a lighter to set the flag alight in Whitehall on June 7. Pictured: The incident 

The Cenotaph, designed in 1919 by Sir Edwin Lutyens, commemorates those who died fighting for Britain in the First World War.  

Prosecutor Komal Varsani said: ‘On June 7, at approximately 8.40pm, City of London police were working alongside Metropolitan Police officers as a number of instances had happened because of the Black Lives Matter protest.

‘A containment had been put in place in case of a breach of peace.

‘Demonstrators were showing aggressive behaviour towards police and, as they reached the long side of the Cenotaph, missiles and bottles were being thrown at them.

‘The defendant was at the front of the group, and he was being hostile and aggressive. They could see he was aggressive, confrontational, and was swinging his arms. The defendant had to be held back several times.

‘He eventually calmed down and a police officer saw him climbing on top of the Cenotaph.

The teenager, who 'enjoyed the attention', was urged by protestors to set fire to the government-owned flame-retardant flag when he climbed on the memorial in London, Westminster Magistrates Court heard. Pictured: The Cenotaph

 The teenager, who ‘enjoyed the attention’, was urged by protestors to set fire to the government-owned flame-retardant flag when he climbed on the memorial in London, Westminster Magistrates Court heard. Pictured: The Cenotaph

‘The officer describes the defendant pulling at the Union Jack flag and showing it to the crowd of people. While several people urged him to come down off the monument, others were encouraging him.

‘The defendant had a lighter in his hand and tried to set fire to the flag. The flag was flame retardant. That is the only reason why it did not catch on fire.’

Miss Varsani said police ordered him to get down from the Cenotaph but Sang did not comply.

She added: ‘The defendant reached to pull a lighter out a second time and only stopped when an officer said he will use any means to stop him from setting fire to the flags.

‘He was trying to wind up the crowd and enjoyed the attention, according to officer statements.

Pictured: Astrophel Sang

Pictured: Astrophel Sang

‘The defendant then attempted to throw the Nike bag at one of his female friends who was also present. The bumbag was found to have contained several lighters.’

The prosecutor added: ‘When the defendant was arrested, he said: “I didn’t rip it I tried to set fire to it”.

‘He gave a no comment interview and he is of previous good character.’

Nathaniel Wade, in mitigation, said: ‘This is a case about symbolism and also public order.

‘While this would probably be best said in mitigation, it is important for Mr Sang the court understands his regret.

‘It’s abundantly clear to anybody what an attack on the Cenotaph would mean, but perhaps not Mr Sang at that time.

‘He wants to apologise, and ultimately that is what any court wants to hear, and that is the objective of the criminal justice system.’

Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram said: ‘I take a serious view of this offence.

‘It’s not only the significant offence that would cause alarm to a large number of people in this country. It is not only about the Union Jack, it is the Cenotaph.

‘This offence was done in the context of an unlawful protest and it is important to see it in that context.

‘I have insufficient power to deal with this offence.’

He added: ‘I’m going to commit you for sentence at the crown court sitting in Southwark.

Andrew Banks, 28, of Stansted, Essex, was jailed for 14 days for urinating next to Pc Keith Palmer's memorial during a counter-BLM protest

Andrew Banks, 28, of Stansted, Essex, was jailed for 14 days for urinating next to Pc Keith Palmer’s memorial during a counter-BLM protest

Pictured: Trevor Coult

Pictured; Mr Coult in Iraq

Trevor Coult (pictured) previously slammed police for failing to immediately charge Sang when he was rebailed in August following the alleged incident

‘You’ll be notified of the time and date. I release you on unconditional bail.’  

A war veteran previously slammed police for failing to immediately charge Sang when he was rebailed in August following the alleged incident.

Trevor Coult, who won the Military Cross for shooting three suicide bombers in an ambush on his patrol in Iraq in 2005, described the initial lack of a charge over the incident as a ‘disgusting insult to veterans of all creed and colour’.   

Mr Coult, 45, added said the move had ‘reeked of double standards’ after a man who urinated next to a murdered police officer’s mural was jailed within days.  

Andrew Banks, 28, of Stansted, Essex, was jailed for 14 days for urinating next to Pc Keith Palmer’s memorial during a counter-BLM protest.

This was despite him having no previous convictions and the judge who sentenced him agreeing that he ‘didn’t know’ where he was urinating. 

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