Man behind 'Beware of Jews' sign in North London says it was just part of art project on 'identity'

Ben Kentish
Jewish community groups said the sign had caused 'alarm and distress' among local people

The artist behind a sign that appeared to warn people to “Beware of Jews” has said he was "sorry for any offence caused".

Featuring a black silhouette of an Orthodox Jewish man inside a red-triangle warning, the sign was attached to lamppost in the north London district of Stamford Hill - known for its large Hassidic Jewish population.

Reported as a hate crime by a Jewish neighbourhood watch group, Scotland Yard said they were investigating the incident as a "religiously aggravated hate crime".

Shadow Home Secretary and MP for Hackney North Diane Abbott called it was "disgusting" and "unacceptable".

But Franck Allais, the man behind the sign, has come forward to claim the sign was part of an art project about “identity” and was not intended to be anti-Semitic.

The French photographer and artist, who has lived in east London for 16 years, said it was one of 27 signs that he had put up around the capital for "a project about crossing the road".

Other signs featured a woman pulling a shopping trolley, a man pushing his wheelchair and a cat, he said.

The project was intended to show "how everyone is different, everyone has an identity”, he told The Guardian.

“There is not only one sign in the street," he said. "I put more signs up in the street, but only this one got noticed. I am sorry for any offence caused.”

In a separate interview with the BBC, he said he believed red warning triangles did not have a "bad" meaning, but rather advised motorists to "take care" of the item depicted.

He "completely regretted" causing offence, he added.

Shomrim, a Jewish neighbourhood group in North London, had earlier said the sign had caused “alarm and distress” to the local Jewish community.

Hackney Council estimates there are about 30,000 Charedi Jews in Stamford Hill, the largest community in Europe.

“The people of Stamford Hill are very sadly used to instances of anti-Semitic hate crime, but most of those times it will be verbal abuse or even assault”, said Barry Bard, Shomrim’s operational supervisor in the area.

“A lot of the time it will be more of a person-to-person kind of thing, or graffiti, which is more unprofessional.”

Reports of anti-Semitic attacks in the UK are currently at record high.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors anti-Jewish violence, recorded 1,309 incidents in 2016 –a rise of 36 per cent on the previous year.

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