Sunak says he has confidence in Met Police chief after protest row

Sunak says he has confidence in Met Police chief after protest row
Sunak says he has confidence in Met Police chief after protest row

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he has confidence in Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley after criticism over how a Jewish man was treated at a pro-Palestinian march.

But the prime minister said Sir Mark still needs to work to rebuild the trust of the Jewish community.

Sir Mark had faced a call to resign after antisemitism campaigner Gideon Falter was called “openly Jewish” by police and threatened with arrest.

The Met has apologized and offered to meet Falter to do so personally.

New footage of the exchange published by Sky News on Sunday shows Falter telling officers he wanted to get to an area on the other side of where pro-Palestinian protesters were marching in London on April 13.

Police officers do not let him pass and instead offer to escort him via another route, avoiding the protesters, so he will be “completely safe”.

During the exchange, an officer claims Falter is being “disingenuous” and was trying to “antagonize” others because he “took it upon himself” to deliberately walk “right into the middle” of the march.

Falter, the head of the Campaign Against Antisemitism who was wearing a kippah, was described by an officer as “openly Jewish”.

He later told the BBC he felt he “was being treated like a criminal for being Jewish” and that police were “curtailing the rights of law-abiding Londoners” to walk wherever they like freely.

Home Secretary James Cleverly and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan are meeting Met Police commissioner Sir Mark for separate talks on Monday.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Sunak said: “What happened was clearly wrong and it’s right that they’ve apologized for that.

“Yes, I do have confidence him but that’s on the basis that he works to rebuild the confidence and trust not just of the Jewish community but the wider public, particularly people in London, but more broadly.

“And you regain that trust and that confidence by making it clear that the police are not tolerating behavior that we would all collectively deem as unacceptable when we see it.”

Falter previously told the BBC “it’s time for Sir Mark Rowley to go” — a call echoed by former home secretary Suella Braverman, who said it shows “the wholesale failure to combat antisemitism” by the police.

Braverman said the police had taken sides at the protest, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “If this march was peaceful, why was a Jewish man not able to cross the street peacefully?”

The Met apologized twice on Friday, and Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist has written to Falter to offer a private meeting to apologize to him personally.

The London Jewish Forum — which includes representatives from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and other Jewish groups — said it met Sir Mark on Monday morning for talks, and that Met officers apologized again.

It said it would meet the police further to discuss the impact of the protests “in terms of disruption and intimidation of the Jewish community”, and urged the police and government to reduce the number of protests and move them to less disruptive locations.

Several politicians have criticized the force’s handling of the exchange, although stopped short of calling for Sir Mark’s resignation.

Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the Met’s response was “way over the top”. Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the incident “clearly wasn’t handled properly” but added Sir Mark was “leading important reforms” to the Met “and it’s really important that we work with the police”.

Former chief superintendent in the Met Police Dal Babu told BBC Breakfast on Monday that the fuller 13-minute clip of the incident showed “a totally different encounter to the one that Falter has reported”.

Babu said the officer’s “openly Jewish” comment was “not acceptable”. But he added: “What you see [Falter] doing is attempting to go against the march, trying to push past the officers, and I think for 13 minutes the officers showed great restraint.

“They offered to take him to a crossing point, they offered to help him and the group he was with the opportunity to cross at a more appropriate place. So the narrative that’s been pushed for the past few days is not accurate.”

Falter told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday that his members often attend pro-Palestinian marches to “force the police to make sure these things are safe for Jewish people” — and he would turn up at the next one.

He said the protests were “so badly policed, that if you are a Jew on the sideline of this thing, they have to threaten you with arrest to get rid of you”. — BBC


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