Why Didn’t They Know?! Met Police told to "Get Back To School" after Swastika Shame

2 April 2024, 08:33 | Updated: 2 April 2024, 13:35

  • Did you see what happened? Email the LBC team: witness@lbc.co.uk

Jocelin Weiss calls for 'anti-bias training' in the Met

By Emma Soteriou

Clueless senior police officers displayed a shocking and worrying ignorance over the weekend after they were filmed telling a Jewish woman that swastikas shown in a pro-Palestine march needed to be "taken in context".

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Jocelin Weiss told police that she saw the Nazi symbol being displayed on banners during a march through London.

She was told that displaying a swastika was "not necessarily anti-Semitic" nor "a disruption of public order".

The furious activist asked the police officer in what context a swastika could not be seen as anti-Semitic.

One officer replied: "I didn't say it was or it wasn't."

A Met Police Chief Inspector then interrupted and said: "A swastika on its own, I don't think is..."

Read more:'It doesn't need context - it's an outrageous symbol': Met condemned after swastika row on pro-Palestine protest
Read more:
Met chief under fire after officer's shocking claim that swastikas 'need to be taken in context’ on Palestine march

A Downing Street spokesperson said it was up to the Met Police to speak as to what their training around the issue was, but Rishi Sunak "expects the police to enforce the law and take the toughest possible action against anti-Semitism, and intimidation."

He told LBC "It is up to the Met to speak to their training, obviously police receive guidance on the enforcement of the law - it is right that is continually looked at."

"When it comes to the policing of protests we have worked very closely with the police since the attacks to ensure that they have the guidance and powers in place, we have always acted accordingly to ensure that they have. We wouldn't ever rule out further action to ensure they [the police] have what they need"

Speaking to LBC, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said there was no place on Britain's streets for anti-Semitism.

He said: "We've been crystal clear on this, there's absolutely no place in our society or on our streets for anti-Semitism or hatred of any kind.

"We've given the police more powers to tackle it, and I've been crystal clear that I expect the police to use those powers and hold people to account."

Speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Ms Weiss said she believed there was a lapse in education and training in the Met police.

She said the pro-Palestine marches were "out of control", adding that "you don't need to be a master of semiotics" to know the meaning of the swastika.

The American documentary maker told Nick: "I think it's a lack of literacy. I wasn't educated in British schools, I live here now, I really do love London, but I don't know what education there is in regards to literacy on this issue.

"Clearly there is a gap. There needs to be anti-bias training programmes in regards to anti-Semitism with the Met.

"There is clearly a lapse in communication and a lapse in this training - whether that comes from the Community Security Trust (CST) I'm not sure but there needs to be a training in this regard because there's a lack of education."

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari is joined by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan | 02/04/24

Reflecting on the incident, she said: "I was disturbed but I just couldn't believe that it was real life because part of me wanted to believe social media had exaggerated this - maybe there is confusion."

Ms Weiss added: "This was a swastika and I felt hopeless. I found a police officer because that's what I was told we were supposed to do if we saw anti-Semitic signs."

She said she was sent "up the line" and told several times "it needs to be put in context".

"I thought at any point they would have backtracked and said 'oh, well I'll go with you - perhaps this doesn't need context' but no, [the officer] basically brought out the metaphorical shovel and kept digging deeper and deeper."

Despite the concerning scenes, the Met Police have confirmed that no disciplinary proceedings have been launched into the officers.

The force also confirmed that the man who was carrying the placard was arrested.

Ms Weiss said the Met had not reached out to her since Saturday, saying: "I would welcome them getting in touch with an apology."

David Lammy: This isn't about context, this is about anti-Semitism

Addressing the issue with Nick on Tuesday, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: "We’ve introduced new powers and it’s very important that the police use those to make sure that they police protests correctly.

"Those new powers which we've introduced...there'll also be other powers come in as well - every single one of those Labour has not backed."

She added: "They are operationally independent but of course the comment was wrong.

"I believe, when they went to find out, that actually a man was arrested."

Ms Weiss hit back at Ms Keegan, saying it was "comical" for her to criticise Labour over anti-Semitism.

"If there's one thing I want to commend, having been a Jew in New York and now a Jew in London, Keir Starmer has done so much more to combat this issue - at least in efforts - compared to Joe Biden."

Tory MP criticises Met response to anti-Semitic protesters

President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, told Nick: "My position on this is that any swastika at this rally is clearly highly provocative to the community.

"There can be nothing worse - it’s absolutely outrageous and it’s anti-Semitic. It’s not in need of any guidance."

She added: "It clearly comes from the top and they need to urgently clarify that this will be regarded as race hatred and give guidance that there should be immediate arrests."

"As far as I'm concerned, a swastika at one of those rallies does not need to have any other context," Ms van der Zyl continued.

"It’s absolutely the worst symbol that I could ever look at. Most of my family were murdered in the Holocaust. It’s the biggest sign of hate that you can give to any human being."

Caller Paul feels he is 'entitled' to brandish a swastika in certain contexts after Met row

The Metropolitan Police has been widely condemned following the incident.

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy rebuked police for not immediately identifying the swastika as a hate symbol.

"It doesn’t need context - it’s an outrageous symbol," he said on LBC.

He added: "All of us know that the swastika is a vile, terrible, Nazi image that led to the attempted destruction of the Jewish people, and certainly the loss of life of millions and millions of people.

"Not just Jewish people actually - black people were killed, disabled people were killed, gay men and women were murdered by the Nazis.

"And the idea that a swastika is something where you need context, when clearly it is something that is aimed at Jewish people, particularly with what is happening in Israel-Gaza now, is horrendous."

Mr Lammy's fellow shadow cabinet minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said the story was "very concerning" but that he sympathised with officers doing public order policing, which he said was "very difficult".

He told Matthew Wright: "I do have sympathy for bobbies on the front line... if someone's going to make very difficult decisions as to whether you intervene in something and make it worse, or whether you try to stand back."

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