Prime Minister ‘Appalled’ by Police Treatment of Jewish Man at London Protest

Rishi Sunak expressed deep concern over the treatment of a Jewish man by police during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London, according to a source from Downing Street.

The Metropolitan Police apologized twice on Friday following an incident where an officer referred to Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) leader Gideon Falter as “openly Jewish.”

Mr. Falter was threatened with arrest

On April 13, Mr. Falter, wearing a kippah skullcap, was threatened with arrest and informed by police that his presence was causing a “breach of peace.” He has since called for the resignation of the Met’s commissioner.

Gideon Falter (Credit: Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

Met Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist has reached out to Mr. Falter to offer a private meeting to “apologize to him personally and discuss what more the Met can do to ensure Jewish Londoners feel safe.”

Downing Street stated that the prime minister had viewed the original footage and was “appalled, like everyone else, by the officer’s description of Mr. Falter as ‘openly Jewish.'”

The source noted that while it was appropriate for the Met to apologize, they criticized the force for “completely mishandling” the situation, first issuing an apology that was later retracted before issuing a second statement.

“[The prime minister] expects the Met commissioner to explain how this occurred and what steps will be taken to ensure officers do more to ensure the safety of Jewish communities in London – and for Sadiq Khan to fulfill his duty in holding the Met accountable.”

Footage shows Mr. Falter informing police he was just crossing the road

New footage from Sky News has also surfaced, showing Mr. Falter informing the police officer that he was attempting to cross the road.

The South London for Palestine protest marches towards the US Embassy on April 20, 2024 in London, England. (Credit: Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

In the video, the officer accuses Mr. Falter of deliberately walking “right into the middle” of the march and describes his actions as “disingenuous,” suggesting he was attempting to “antagonize” others.

The officer tells the campaign leader, “My view is you are looking to try and antagonize things,” to which Mr. Falter responds, “I’m not, I’m trying to walk along the pavement.”

Speaking to BBC News, Mr. Falter described the experience as “frightening” and stated it made him feel “like I was being treated like a criminal for being Jewish.”

The CAA chief executive criticized Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, accusing him of “curtailing the rights of law-abiding Londoners including the Jewish community to appease lawless mobs.”

Pro Palestine protest London. (Credit: Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

“I think it’s time for Sir Mark Rowley to go,” he added. “We need a new commissioner who understands that the role of policing is… to enforce the law and if the law says that Londoners can go wherever they want freely, as long as they’re law-abiding, then that’s what they have to enforce.”

Metropolitan Police assures the safety of Jewish Londoners

In an updated statement on Sunday evening, the Met expressed its commitment to ensuring the safety of Jewish Londoners. The force announced that it had invited senior representatives from London’s Jewish communities, officials from the mayor’s office of policing and crime, and members of the House of Lords to an “operational planning exercise.”

Metropolitan Police assures the safety of Jewish Londoners. (Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“This would ordinarily be undertaken in private, but in recognition of the need to engage better and provide reassurance we are inviting community leaders to join us,” it said. “This is complex, but we will continue to seek the support and insight of all voices who can help us deliver the service London deserves.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is scheduled to meet with the Met commissioner this week following what it described as “a series of high-profile errors”.

A spokesperson said the Met had made “entirely avoidable mistakes”, which have had “a devastating effect on the previously high level of trust held by the UK’s Jewish community in the police”.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has written to Sir Mark and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan asking for an explanation.

Mr. Khan has arranged an urgent meeting with the commissioner on Monday to “discuss community relations”, but it is understood he has full confidence in the commissioner.

On Saturday, a spokesman for the mayor said the Met’s handling of the incident was “concerning” and that the force “must have the confidence of the communities they serve”.

The Met commissioner is also expected to meet with Policing Minister Chris Philp.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho labels the incident as a “serious misstep”

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “What we can’t be saying to particular groups in society is that their very presence is a provocation.”

Secretary of State for Energy Security Claire Coutinho (Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Asked if Sir Mark Rowley should resign, she said she “personally wouldn’t go that far because I haven’t had the conversations with him”, before adding it “is really important that we stand by the Jewish community, and other communities as well”.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary told Sky News she did not think the commissioner should resign.

Shabana Mahmood said she could “understand the strength of feeling” and described the footage as “very concerning”, but believed the commissioner’s resignation was not “the way forward”.

Scotland Yard has previously apologized twice for the officer’s phrase.

Pro-Israel supporters hold placards and wave Israelian flags as they gather opposite to a pro-Palestinian rally. (Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

An initial apology from the Met on Friday was withdrawn after it was criticized as victim-blaming and the Met issued a second statement saying “being Jewish is not a provocation” and apologized again.

It said: “Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city.”

In the original video clip shot at the march, the police officer said: “You are quite openly Jewish, this is a pro-Palestinian march.

“I’m not accusing you of anything but I’m worried about the reaction to your presence.”

The Met has faced criticism for its handling of a series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations since last October when the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel.

Hundreds of gunmen infiltrated communities near the Gaza Strip, and about 1,200 people were killed, with more than 250 taken to Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in air and artillery strikes carried out by the Israeli military in response, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry has said.

Arit Saha
Arit Saha
Arit Saha, an Economics graduate and budding content writer in Kolkata, deftly merges his passions for economics and global politics. He crafts engaging content weaving economic insights into geopolitical narratives. Contact: [email protected]
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