Met police apologise again after 'victim blaming' backlash over threat to arrest 'openly Jewish' man at march

19 April 2024, 22:45 | Updated: 20 April 2024, 02:00

Shocking moment Met police officer threatens to arrest man for being 'quite openly Jewish' at pro-Palestine march

By Emma Soteriou

Police have apologised after threatening to arrest an "openly Jewish" man at a pro-Palestine march - and then said sorry again after they were accused of "victim blaming" in their response.

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Gideon Falter was wearing a kippah on his head and trying to cross a road in the Aldwych area of London when he was stopped by police.

A video shared by Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) from the march last weekend showed him saying to the officer: "I don't want to stay here, I want to leave."

The officer responded: "In that case sir, when the crowd is gone I will happily escort you out."

Mr Falter then attempted to walk across the road before being blocked.

Read more: Ten arrests after pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups clash in London

Read more: Shocking moment Met Police officer says ‘swastikas need to be looked at in context’ at pro-Palestine march in London

"I don't want anybody antagonising anybody... and at the moment sir, you are quite openly Jewish. This is a pro-Palestinian march," one officer said.

"I am not accusing you of anything but I am worried about the reaction to your presence."

He later added: "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.

"Your presence here is antagonising a large group of people that we can't deal with all of them if they attack you... because your presence is antagonising them."

Responding to the clip, the Met issued a statement apologising on Friday afternoon.

However, the force also accused counter-protesters of being "provocative" by filming themselves as they visit areas where marches are taking place.

The remarks sparked further fury, with the CAA accusing the Met of "abject victim blaming", leading to the statement being removed.

The Met went on to retract its original statement before releasing another apology for causing further offence and adding: "Being Jewish is not a provocation."

The original clip from the CAA also showed an interaction with another officer, who said: "I am trying to make sure you are safe and that no one attacks you or your group or anyone else, that's all."

Mr Falter responded saying: "I'd like that too but your sergeant here has told me that because I'm Jewish, it's antagonistic to the crowd and it's dangerous for me."

"I'm not saying that," the second officer said.

"But he's just said that," Mr Falter said. "Do you have any idea what it's like being a Jew in London at the moment?"

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He continued: "Let me tell you, this goes on every Saturday, you probably know it, your colleagues know it. You guys are on the front line. The route changes every single week, you never have any idea where it's going to be. 

"Because you're Jewish in London, you now have to cross these huge groups of people. It's intimidating enough and now look at the number of police that are around her... I'm just a Jew in London trying to cross the road.

"I've been told repeatedly by the Met that these are completely safe for Jews, that I should have nothing to worry about and yet here I find myself in this bubble.

"This guy has just been shouting at me and shoving me because I want to cross the road."

Speaking about his experience later on, Mr Falter said he sympathised with frontline officers who are put in "impossible positions" every week.

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

It comes after officers were previously filmed telling a Jewish woman that swastikas shown in a pro-Palestine march needed to be "taken in context".

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..."

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."