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Minister ‘deeply concerned’ by Met protest row

Gideon Falter was stopped by police on Saturday

The policing minister has said he is “deeply concerned” after a Met Police officer described an antisemitism campaigner as “openly Jewish” during a pro-Palestine march.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, was wearing a kippah skull-cap when he was stopped in the Aldwych area of London and threatened with arrest on 13 April.

Mr Falter was told by police his presence was causing a “breach of peace”. The Met has since apologised but Mr Falter called for the force’s commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to resign or be sacked.

Policing Minister Chris Philp said he would meet Sir Mark to discuss his concerns.

He said: “No-one should be told their religion is provocative, nor an innocent person threatened with arrest solely because of someone else’s anticipated unreasonable reaction.”

Scotland Yard has apologised twice for the officer’s phrase.

An initial apology from the Met on Friday was withdrawn after it was criticised as victim-blaming and the Met issued a second statement saying that “being Jewish is not a provocation” and apologised again.

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

In a 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.”

‘Everybody must feel safe’

Earlier on Saturday, a Home Office spokesperson said the government recognised “the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests” but added being Jewish or of any other religion should not be seen as “provocative”.

The spokesperson added: “Anyone of any religion should be free to go about their lives and feel safe doing so.”

It is understood that Home Secretary James Cleverly has written to both the Met and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan about what happened.

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “Everybody must feel safe going about in London wherever they please.

“The way the original incident was dealt with by the Met was concerning and the original response put out by them was insensitive and wrong.

“The Met have an extremely difficult job – particularly so when it comes to operational decisions taken while policing marches – but in the end the Met must have the confidence of the communities they serve and it is right that they have apologised for the way the incident was handled and their original public response.”

Crowds protested in London on Saturday

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

Mr Falter said he had been walking in the capital after attending synagogue and was not there to 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.”

In a statement issued on Saturday, Mr Falter said what happened at the march was a “disgrace” but the Met’s response in the aftermath was a “stain” on the force’s reputation.

He said Sir Mark should resign or be sacked and he claimed “racists, extremists and terrorist-sympathisers” had been “emboldened” by the Met’s “failure to curtail the marches”.

Mr Falter said there had been a “surge” in anti-Semitic crime and he accused the Met of “inertia”.

The Met has faced criticism for its handling of a series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations since the renewal of hostilities in Gaza last October.