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'It wasn't bullying': Protester defends demo at Tobias Ellwood's home as he says 'Hamas is not in question'

14 February 2024, 18:11 | Updated: 14 February 2024, 23:22

Tom Swarbrick speaks with protester who was outside Tobias Ellwood's home

By Kit Heren

A Palestine protester who took part in a large demonstration outside the house of Tobias Ellwood has denied bullying the Conservative MP.

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Mohammed, who was among about 80 members of the Palestine Solidarity Movement group who gathered outside the Bournemouth East MP's home on Monday, said they weren't intimidating him.

"I don’t think it’s him being bullied, it’s his moral obligation - his minimum moral obligation - as a member of Parliament, to listen to his constituents," Mohammed said.

The protesters chanted "Ceasefire now!" and “Free Palestine!" through a megaphone while Mr Ellwood was at home with his two sons.

They also shouted: "Tobias Ellwood, you can’t hide, you signed up for genocide."

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Mohammed defended the group's actions by saying "it was a very peaceful protest, and Britain is complicit in the genocide and the ethnic cleansing that is going on."

He said that by not asking for a ceasefire, Mr Ellwood was "backing the genocide". He said that Mr Ellwood "and every other MP that does not is complicit."

The International Court of Justice has told Israel to do everything it can to stop the deaths of Palestinian civilians, but stopped short of saying that a genocide was taking place.

Mohammed said he thought it was "plain to see" that a genocide was happening.

Asked whether he thought Hamas should be allowed to remain in power in Gaza - one of their conditions for ending fighting with Israel - Mohammed said: "Hamas is not in question here. They administer the Gaza Strip."

When Tom pressed him on whether Hamas should be allowed to remain in charge of the territory, Mohammed said: "Do you think that Israel should be allowed to commit massacres daily?"

James O'Brien says it's 'unacceptable' to congregate outside an MPs' home

Police were called to Monday night's protest, and said they ensured the event took place without "serious disruption to the community" while making sure "people could exercise their right to protest legally".

Alicia Kearns, another Conservative MP and the chairwoman of the foreign affairs select committee, slammed the protesters for targeting Mr Ellwood's home, while a local politician said the demonstration was not "legitimate".

She added: "This has a chilling effect on political discourse, and serves only to push politicians to the point where they question whether it is all worth it, especially for their families.

"We treasure in our country that our MPs live in our communities with such a close relationship with those we represent.”

Dorset Police said: "Officers attended the scene and liaised with the organisers to ensure people could exercise their right to protest legally and safely without causing significant or ongoing serious public disorder, serious damage or serious disruption to the community.

"We respect people's right to lawful protest. However, we have a duty to ensure those involved act within the law and ensure the local community can go about their lawful activities."

Tobias Ellwood
Tobias Ellwood. Picture: Alamy

Patrick Canavan, leader of the Labour group on Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council, said: "It is completely unacceptable to target the home of any MP of any party in that way. It isn’t a legitimate protest."

The Palestine Solidarity Movement said: "Our emergency demonstration was in direct response to the Israeli bombings of Rafah refugee camp.

"Our protest was entirely legal and is the result of constituent calls being ignored and inadequately addressed by Tobias Ellwood."

Mr Ellwood is not in the government, although he was a junior defence minister from 2017-2019 and earlier served as a junior Foreign Office minister. He also chaired the defence select committee from 2020-2023.

He has previously criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his country's "reckless" actions in Gaza.

MPs' security has made headlines recently after the Conservative Mike Freer said he would step down after receiving death threats, which he believes were related to his support for Israel.

Mr Ellwood's fellow Conservative Sir David Amess was murdered in 2021 by Islamist terrorist Ali Harbi Ali, while Jo Cox was killed by far right attacker Thomas Mair in 2016.

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