Teen who burned Union Jack at The Cenotaph in BLM protest walks free from court

A teenager has walked free from court after admitting he tried to burn the Union Jack at The Cenotaph, during the Black Lives Matter protests.

Astrophel Sang, 19, attended the protest in London where he attempted to set the flag alight, however he was let off with a conditional discharge.

Videos of the incident which were posted on social media brought veterans to tears, a court heard.

During the demonstration on June 7, Sang attempted to torch the Union Jack after climbing the national war memorial.

However, his attempts were unsuccessful as the flag was flame-retardant.

A court previously heard the Coventry University photography student could face up to 18 months behind bars.

But a judge today let him walk free from court, handing him instead a two year conditional discharge, and ordering him to pay £340 in court costs.

Today the baby-faced teenager appeared in the dock at Southwark Crown Court, wearing a smart black collared shirt and black trousers to be sentenced and was supported by his partner who sat in the public gallery.

Passing sentence for one count of attempted arson, Judge Christopher Hehir said Sang was lucky he tried to burn the flag in a liberal democracy and not under an oppressive regime.

He said: "In some countries trying to set fire to the national flag while climbing on the national war memorial would put you in very considerable peril if not danger, indeed.

"You are fortunate to be a citizen of this country, The United Kingdom, and to have committed this offence in a liberal democracy where justice is administered impartially and fairly.

"It's a shame that you chose to get worked up about a flag and I have to acknowledge the considerable hurt your behaviour will have caused many people."

He added: "I am at a loss as to understanding why you or anyone, in the course of a Black Lives Matter protest, would seek to target The Cenotaph.

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"The Cenotaph commemorates all those who have died fighting for this country, and they weren't all white you know.

"The fallen commemorated at The Cenotaph includes people from all colours and creeds from many different people from the world who came together to fight racism and fascism in World War Two.

"Had this country and her allies not prevailed between 1939 and 1945 you would not have been free to attend a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020."

The teen, of Ravenshurst Street, Highgate, Birmingham, was previously convicted at Westminster Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty.

Shanice Mahmud, prosecuting, said: "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.

She added: "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."

"At that stage Mr Sang tried to climb up onto the pole with the St George's flag and got about halfway up that flag.

"He swings at one stage back and forth having attached himself to that pole eventually sliding down back onto the plinth.

"He refused to come down until his female friend was removed from the Cordon.

"At this stage PS Murphy and PS Rice tried to detain him with a colleague but Mr Sang and his friend locked their arms in an attempt to obstruct the arrest."

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