The Met Police was facing questions over its impartiality last night after a picture emerged of officers posing with a masked child holding a Palestine flag.
Scotland Yard admitted it was ‘not advisable’ for the two officers to have agreed to be pictured with the child at the pro-Palestinian march yesterday, which was marred by displays of antisemitism.
The force was also branded a ‘disgrace’ after a video posted on X showed officers in riot gear standing and watching as punches were thrown in an ugly brawl in Trafalgar Square. The Met said it is ‘making enquiries’ and it was ‘clear the reaction of officers was not what we would hope to see’.
It comes after Home Secretary Suella Braverman provoked a political storm last week by warning of a ‘perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters’.
Concerns about the apparent political biases of Met Police officers has been a recurrent theme at protests in recent years, most notoriously when several officers ‘took the knee’ at a Black Lives Matter march in 2020.
Since then, Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has sought to stamp out woke gestures at public events, saying earlier this year that there were ‘very few causes policing should be attached to’.
Yesterday there was a furious reaction to the picture of the two officers posing with the child, given the sensitivities surrounding the march due to surging levels of antisemitism in the capital.
The Met Police has admitted it ‘was not advisable’ for two officers to pose for a picture with a child at a pro-Palestine march
The force issued a response on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the picture drew wide criticism on social media
An officer crouches down and speaks to a man during a sit-In protest at Victoria Station in demand of ceasefire in Gaza
Daniel Sugarman, director of public affairs at the Board of Deputies, said: ‘I’m just wondering what on Earth these officers were thinking.’
Heidi Bachram, who first highlighted the image on social media, said she was worried about ‘police impartiality’, adding: ‘This is not improving relations or decreasing tensions.’
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘We always encourage our officers to be engaging and friendly with the public.
‘However, in the context of a protest about such a contentious issue we acknowledge that it was not advisable for the officers to agree to pose for the photograph.
‘No action will be taken against the officers who we have no reason to think were doing anything other than trying to positively engage.’
In a widely shared video on X, a night-time brawl can be seen breaking out in the middle of Trafalgar Square with a lit-up National Gallery in the background.
A number of officers dressed in riot stand in a line and watch as punches are thrown while a woman’s voice can be repeatedly heard asking: ‘Can someone tell me why the police are on stand down?’
As the dust settled on a protest which attracted hundreds of thousands of supporters this weekend, a grim series of antisemitic incidents were coming to light.
Both the Met Police and the British Transport Police (BTP) published a series of pictures of individuals they wished to speak to regarding alleged hate incidents.
Among those being hunted is a woman who was filmed yelling ‘death to all Jews’, two men pictured wearing Hamas headbands, a group of four who called pro Palestine protesters ‘tourist c***s’.
Tens of thousands of pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered during the ‘Day of Action’ protests in London on November 4
Transport Police officers are surrounded by several hundred activists at Embankment station following the protest at Waterloo station in October
Police clash with far-right counter-protesters in Parliament Square yesterday
Officers detained and arrested scores of counter-protesters at the rally, which the Met said was attended by 300,000 people
This sign, seen at the rally, accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being the ‘mastermind’ behind ‘all evils’
A placard displayed at the protest compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler
Protesters holds a banner telling people to ‘resist and fight Zionism’ as they march through central London on Saturday
A sign at the protest featured cartoons appearing to depict depict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman
Another individual on the Met’s list of suspects is a man who was filmed saying: ‘Hitler knew how to deal with these people’
Also included is a woman who was seen marching with a placard that entwined the Nazi swastika with the Star of David, several men dressed as Hamas terrorists and a woman who was filmed yelling ‘death to all the Jews’ at London Victoria station.
In another chilling clip taken on the march itself, a pro-Palestinian protester openly said during an interview with a fringe media outlet: ‘Hitler knew how to deal with these people.’
The Met and the BTP were said to be investigating videos filmed in London Waterloo and Victoria stations ‘which show unacceptable abuse including antisemitic language, as well as threatening behaviour’.
The BTP appealed for information about a group of men, including one in an Arsenal football shirt, who were filmed yelling abuse at some of the Palestine supporters in Waterloo.
The Arsenal fan is seemingly the first to hit out, calling the group of individuals ‘terrorist f***ers’.
Another man then steps forward, agreeing: ‘Yeah who are you? You terrorist c***’.
The confrontation appears to escalate as one of the men shouts: ‘Who are you? Who are you f***ing hitting’. He is then held back by another man as he leaps forward.
Pro Palestine supporters then hit back, telling the group of men: ‘You are being disrespectful towards the dead’.
The right-wing mob then declare in response: ‘Who are you? We were born in this country. You f***ing tourist c***s’.
‘We were born in this country,’ one of the men can be heard yelling repeatedly, until one woman replied: ‘So were we!’
Ms Braverman warned this afternoon the ‘valorisation of terrorism’ at weekly pro-Palestinian protests ‘can’t go on’ as she slammed ‘hate, violence, and anti-Semitism’ on Armistice Day.
Another group of four men were filmed walking through Waterloo station before shouting vile expletives at protestors
Police are also ‘actively seeking’ two men pictured wearing alleged Hamas-style headbands
One demonstrator was pictured carrying a sing that showed the Jewish Star of David wrapped around a Nazi swastika with the slogan: ‘No British politician should be a ‘friend of Israel”
The Home Secretary vowed ‘further action’ as she praised the police for tackling both Gaza activists – who have been demonstrating every Saturday – and the far right during the chaos yesterday.
The comments came after Ms Braverman joined the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in the wake of the grim scenes.
Critics have blamed the Cabinet minister for inflaming the situation by branding the pro-Palestinian protest a ‘hate march’ and accusing Scotland Yard of bias for letting it go ahead.
However, supporters insist she was proved right by the violence.
Mr Braverman wrote on the X social media site this afternoon: ‘Our brave police officers deserve the thanks of every decent citizen for their professionalism in the face of violence and aggression from protesters and counter protesters in London yesterday.
‘That multiple officers were injured doing their duty is an outrage…
‘The sick, inflammatory and, in some cases, clearly criminal chants, placards and paraphernalia openly on display at the march mark a new low. Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism together with the valorising of terrorism on such a scale is deeply troubling.
‘This can’t go on. Week by week, the streets of London are being polluted by hate, violence, and anti-Semitism.
‘Members of the public are being mobbed and intimidated. Jewish people in particular feel threatened. Further action is necessary.’
Police made 145 arrests across both the pro-Palestine demonstration and a far-right counter protest on Saturday, with the ‘vast majority’ linked to the counter protest organised led by English Defence League (EDL) founder Tommy Robinson.
Yesterday, the Met Police announced that seven people had been charged in relation to alleged disorder at the counter protest, for offences including criminal damage, being drunk and disorderly, assault of an emergency worker and possession of an offensive weapon.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, who led Saturday’s policing operation, said last night: ‘Public order policing doesn’t end when demonstrators go home. We have teams of officers who continue to build cases against those in custody and launch investigations into those who come to our attention when images and videos are shared on social media.
‘Since the end of yesterday’s demonstration we’ve published appeals in relation to six incidents and I have no doubt there will be more to follow. Our colleagues at the British Transport Police have published a further two appeals.
‘We urge anyone who has information about the identity of suspects, or who has footage or photos of further potential offences, to get in touch so we can take the appropriate action.’
As well as the violence of the far-right group, police had to detain a ‘breakaway group’ of around 150 masked pro-Palestinian protesters with their faces concealed who were firing fireworks at officers.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman attending the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall
The Home Secretary vowed ‘further action’ as she praised the police for tackling both Gaza activists and the far right during the chaos yesterday
Michael Gove was hassled by pro-Palestine protesters as he tried to leave Victoria station
Earlier in the day a separate group of masked Palestinian supporters were filmed attacking a man who stood next to the march’s route with a sign reading: ‘Hamas is Isis.’
Michael Gove was also mobbed by pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Victoria station and had to be rushed out of the concourse by police.
Footage of the confrontation showed activists yelling ‘shame on you’, while a later clip captured protesters pursuing him as he tried to walk up the road.
Mr Gove said last night: ‘I’m very grateful for so many kind messages in the last 24 hours. I’d like to thank the police for their exemplary work getting me home safely yesterday.’
Among those condemning the ugly scenes on Saturday was Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who said on Saturday: ‘I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL and associated groups and Hamas sympathisers attending the National March for Palestine.
‘The despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully.’