Astrophel Sang tried to set the Union Flag on fire during a Black Lives Matter protest.
- Sang was filmed trying to torch the Union Flag on the Cenotaph.
- The flag did not light up because it was made to anti-flammable EU standards.
- Sang admitted attempted arson, was given a two-year conditional discharge, and was told to pay £340.
Astrophel Sang used a lighter to try and set the Union Flag on fire in June.
The 19-year-old photography student tried to torch the Union Jack on the Cenotaph during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7. The BLM protests which took place in June were sparked by George Floyd’s death and according to the Daily Mail, they saw numerous “acts of vandalism in the UK against monuments including those of Sir Winston Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi [sic] in Parliament Square”.
Fortunately, Sang failed to torch the flag as it was made to anti-flammable EU standards. Moreover, the police successfully convinced Sang to climb down from the Cenotaph after which they arrested him. During his arrest, the 19-year-old told the police, “I didn’t rip it – I tried to set fire to it.”
Sang avoided jail although he could have been jailed for up to 18 months.
The Daily Mail reported that on December 3, an impact statement was read in court from Judge Asma Bibi. The judge whose grandfather had been in the Indian Merchant Navy during the First World War commented on Sang’s actions and the Cenotaph’s significance:
The Cenotaph represents people of all colours and creeds who stood up to the Nazis. I feel this person disrespected his ancestors too. Half the world came together to stand up against racism. It gives us all a space to remember the fallen and say a prayer to them and it breaks my heart that someone could do something so hateful and desecrate it.
Shanice Mahmud, prosecuting, stated:
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. Mr Sang decided to climb on top of the Cenotaph amongst the flags. There were protesters encouraging him to stop what he was doing. He was hanging on the flags. At this stage Mr Sang had a lighter in his hand.
Sang apologized and explained that he “didn’t know” the significance of the Cenotaph.
Before Judge Christopher Hehir passed the sentence, he read out 12 victim impact statements from war veterans and civilians. He then added, “The inevitable starting point is to say he is sorry.” Sang did do so as Nathaniel Wade explained that the teenager ‘wishes to apologize’. Defending Sang, Wade further claimed:
The irony, perhaps, is that he doesn’t seek to tie anything he did to the cause of systemic prejudice. It had nothing to do with it and the irony is that he recognises that he did damage to issues raised by the veterans and members of the public concerned with the commemoration of war dead but also the cause of addressing systemic prejudice. The irony is to set those two causes against each other when we heard from Ms Bibi that they’re aligned.
The 19-year-old Astrophel Sang of Birmingham avoided jail. He admitted attempted arson, was given a two-year conditional discharge, and was told to pay £340 in costs.