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Jewish councillor hissed at by public during London council meeting

Joshua Garfield labour
Cllr Garfield told the meeting it would "take a lot more to bully [him] out of public life" - Newham Labour

A Jewish councillor was hissed at by members of the public at an east London council meeting last week.

Joshua Garfield was pushed to tell councillors and residents on Thursday that “it would take a lot more” than heckling to “bully [him] out of public life”.

Cllr Garfield is the only Jewish councillor for the London Borough of Newham.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed they made three arrests on Saturday in relation to the incident and are treating it as a hate crime. The detained individuals remain in custody.

Footage of the full meeting, which was live-streamed, caught hissing sounds from the public as Cllr Garfield rose to discuss the council’s budget. The meeting was then halted to clear the public gallery.

Responding to the heckling, Cllr Garfield said: “If members of the gallery want to hiss me, they might wish to speak to my face about the issues they have.”

The meeting was reconvened after around 15 minutes and Rohima Rahman, the council chair, said: “Any anti-Semitism or Islamophobia is not acceptable for this council.”

‘Robust debate always welcome’

Cllr Garfield, a Jewish Labour Movement official, addressed the gallery once again to say: “Robust debate, disagreement, agreement – however strongly – is something that I and I know my colleagues in Labour group always welcome.

“But I’ve spent four years as the only Jewish member of this council, 18 months as the only Jewish member of cabinet.

“It will take a lot more to bully me out of public life.”

Several politicians took to social media to offer their support to Cllr Garfield.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, said: “Joshua stood against me in the General Election. We debated and we disagreed, but always with good grace.

“He is right to stand strong against attempts to bully him and others from the public space. I am determined to protect his right to represent and speak for his community.”

Meanwhile, Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, described the incident as “disgusting” in his own post to X.

Newham Labour Group also issued a message of support for Cllr Garfield, saying: “Democracy is the beating heart of our strong, inclusive and diverse Newham.

“We all have a role to play as elected representatives, citizens and voters to protect and preserve it. For our Jewish councillor Joshua Garfield to be hissed at as he got up to speak is anti-Semitic hate.”

Det Supt Dion Brown, based in Newham, said: “We are aware of the incident that took place at a Newham Council meeting on Thursday Feb 29.

“We are treating this incident as a hate crime and have made contact with the victim. An investigation has been launched.”

On March 2 three people were arrested on suspicion of a racially/ religiously motivated offence under the Public Order Act. They remain in custody.”