London police chief urged to resign over 'openly Jewish' remarks at protest

Met Police assistant commissioner Matt Twist said comments by officer toward anti-Semitism campaigner were 'hugely regrettable'

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, speaks to a Metropolitan Police officer as a pro-Palestine march takes place in London on April 13. PA
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An anti-Semitism campaigner described by a UK police officer as being “openly Jewish” has called for the chief of London's Metropolitan police to lose his job.

Police have apologised twice after an officer said Gideon Falter was “openly Jewish” as he was being threatened with arrest near a pro-Palestine protest.

Mr Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), now wants the Met's chief Mark Rowley to resign or be fired.

A video posted on social media showed Mr Falter, wearing a kippah when he was stopped by officers in central London on April 13, being told by police that he was “quite openly Jewish” and causing a “breach of peace”.

In a statement, Mr Falter said the police chief had failed to curtail the marches, allowing “countless anti-Semitic hate crimes and terrorist offences” to be committed “in broad daylight on our streets”.

He added: “Racists, extremists and terrorist sympathisers have watched the excuses and inertia of the Met under his command and been emboldened by his inaction at precisely the moment when he should be signalling a renewed determination to crack down on this criminality.

“What the Met under Sir Mark has done to the Jewish community over the course of six months is utterly unforgivable and it is time for him to go. Enough is enough.”

Speaking on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, assistant commissioner Matt Twist said that the officer's comments were “hugely regrettable” but added that the issues surrounding the continuing protests are “complex, contentious and polarising”.

A representative of the Home Office said the government welcomed the Met’s apology and recognised “the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests”, but added that being Jewish or any other religion should not be seen as “provocative”.

A representative for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the Met’s handling of the incident was “concerning” and its original apology had been “insensitive and wrong”.

The first apology from the Met suggested opponents of the marches “must know that their presence is provocative” and they are “increasing the likelihood of an altercation” by lining the route to object.

But the force subsequently issued another statement apologising for the “further offence” caused by its first apology.

It said: “Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city.

“Our commitment to protecting the public extends to all communities across London. It’s important that our public statements reflect that more clearly than they did today.”

It is understood that James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, has written to both the Met and Mr Khan about the incident.

Mr Falter said he had been walking in the capital after attending synagogue and was not there to make a counter-protest.

In the clip another officer said to him: “There’s a unit of people here now.

“You will be escorted out of this area so you can go about your business, go where you want freely, or if you choose to remain here because you are causing a breach of peace with all these other people, you will be arrested.”

The officer said that Mr Falter’s presence was “antagonising”.

Mr Falter said: “Despite being told repeatedly that London is safe for Jews when these marches are taking place, my interactions with police officers last Saturday show that the Met believes that being openly Jewish will antagonise the anti-Israel marchers and that Jews need protection, which the police cannot guarantee.

“Instead of addressing that threat of anti-Semitic violence, the Met's policy instead seems to be that law-abiding Jewish Londoners should not be in the parts of London where these marches are taking place. In other words, that they are no-go zones for Jews.”

Mr Falter said he will be walking in London on April 27, adding that no part of the capital should be unsafe.

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestine protesters gathered in London last Saturday to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and urge the British government to stop all arms sales to Israel.

Crowds waved Palestinian flags, chanted “Free Palestine” and held signs calling for a “ceasefire now” and an end to arms sales.

Updated: April 21, 2024, 8:23 PM