Cleverly backs Met chief after antisemitism campaigner protest row

The Home Secretary has said he does “continue to support” Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley after he defended an officer who appeared to threaten an antisemitism campaigner with arrest at a pro-Palestine demonstration.

Speaking during a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, James Cleverly said he had a commitment from the commissioner to “concentrate very much on rebuilding” the confidence the Jewish community had in the force.

Sir Mark previously admitted some of the words exchanged during the incident on April 13 were “clumsy and offensive”, but confirmed the officers involved would not be sanctioned – describing their actions as “professional”.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), was threatened with arrest for breaching the peace by the officers policing the protest in central London, with one describing Mr Falter, who was wearing a kippah, as “openly Jewish”.

Commenting on the incident, the Home Secretary told reporters: “The words the officer used were completely wrong and the police have quite rightly apologised.

“I speak with Mark Rowley regularly and I have spoken specifically about what the Metropolitan Police need to do to re-establish the confidence of Londoners in general and the Jewish community in London in particular, and I had a commitment from Mark that he will concentrate very much on rebuilding that confidence, which is absolutely essential.

“We’ve also discussed the actions that the police could take and should take to make sure people recognise that whilst we absolutely respect the right to protest, what is unacceptable is any part of society, any part of London, any community within London, feeling that they are not able to live their lives freely and fully on the streets of London.

“Unless and until the Jewish community in London do feel comfortable and confident then there is still work to do, and that’s the conversation I’ve had directly with Mark Rowley.

“I have also, of course, spoken to the mayor of London about his responsibilities of policing in his city … I’ve discussed that with him in one of the regular meetings that I have with him.”

Mr Cleverly added: “I do continue to support Mark Rowley as commissioner to continue policing London.”

Questioned on whether he believed a mass walk through London by members of the Jewish community in response to the incident might pose the risk of a flare-up, he said: “I would say that any kind of organised protest needs to be co-ordinated through the Metropolitan Police.

James Cleverly
Home Secretary James Cleverly said people should be able to go about their business without fear of intimidation (Victoria Jones/PA)

“That’s what we would ask of everybody and anybody, and that is a general point. So, if there is going to be an organised counter-protest … it is absolutely right that anyone doing this in any circumstance should contact the police and follow the appropriate procedure.

“As I say, my view is that people going about their peaceful business in London – or indeed anywhere else in the UK – should absolutely feel that they can do so freely and without fear of intimidation.

“That is the conversation that I’ve had and if people are going about their business in London, they absolutely have the right to do so freely. That is absolutely the case.

“That’s my universal belief of the rights of people in the UK.

“So, if something’s being organised, then again, the situation, as an organised event, needs to be registered with the police, that is what I would say to anybody.

“So, people going about their business should absolutely feel free to go about their business, anyone organising a protest of some sort should register with the police, and both those things are universally true.

“If you’d asked me a year ago or a decade ago when I was on the Metropolitan Police Authority, that is what I would say and if you ask me in 10 years’ time that’s what I’m still going to say.”