Being Jewish should never be a provocation, Home Office says - as Met Police apologises after threat to arrest antisemitism campaigner

Being Jewish "should never be seen as provocative", the government has said, following the controversial policing of a pro-Palestinian march in London.

Scotland Yard had to apologise twice after an officer prevented an antisemitism campaigner from crossing a road yards from a demonstration because he was "openly Jewish".

A video showed an officer using the term while speaking to Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, who was wearing a kippah skull cap near the protest in the Aldwych area of London on the afternoon of Saturday 13 April.

He was also threatened with arrest if he failed to leave the area.

Issuing an initial apology on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, assistant commissioner Matt Twist said the officer's use of the phrase was "hugely regrettable", but suggested Mr Falter's presence had been "provocative" and the release of the footage would "further dent the confidence of many Jewish Londoners".

The response prompted further criticism, with Mr Falter accusing the force of "victim-blaming" and arguing it was "the right of every Jew" to walk freely around London.

In the face of a backlash, the Met subsequently deleted the statement and issued a second apology for the "further offence" caused.

The force said: "Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city.

"Our commitment to protecting the public extends to all communities across London.

"It's important that our public statements reflect that more clearly than they did today."

Read more from Sky News:
Police investigate Joey Barton tweets
Ex-model almost died trying to cure cancer with juice diet

It is understood Home Secretary James Cleverly has written to both the Met and London Mayor Sadiq Khan about the incident.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We welcome the Met Police's apology, and recognise the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests, but simply being Jewish - or of any other race or religion - should never be seen as provocative.

"Anyone of any religion should be free to go about their lives and feel safe doing so."

Policing minister Chris Philp MP said: "I am deeply concerned by recent protest-related events.

"No-one should be told their religion is provocative, nor an innocent person threatened with arrest solely because of someone else's anticipated unreasonable reaction.

"I will meet the Commissioner next week to discuss this."

Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: "Everybody must feel safe going about in London wherever they please.

"The way the original incident was dealt with by the Met was concerning and the original response put out by them was insensitive and wrong.

"The Met have an extremely difficult job - particularly so when it comes to operational decisions taken while policing marches - but in the end the Met must have the confidence of the communities they serve and it is right that they have apologised for the way the incident was handled and their original public response."

Mr Falter said he had been walking in the capital after attending a synagogue and was not there to counter-protest as he walked past the demonstration last Saturday.

Footage showed one police officer saying to him: "You are quite openly Jewish, this is a pro-Palestinian march, I'm not accusing you of anything, but I'm worried about the reaction to your presence."

In the clip, another officer said to him: "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."

The officer said Mr Falter's presence was "antagonising".

The antisemitism campaigner said after the incident: "Despite being told repeatedly that London is safe for Jews when these marches are taking place, my interactions with police officers last Saturday show that the Met believes that being openly Jewish will antagonise the anti-Israel marchers and that Jews need protection, which the police cannot guarantee.

"Instead of addressing that threat of antisemitic violence, the Met's policy instead seems to be that law-abiding Jewish Londoners should not be in the parts of London where these marches are taking place. In other words, that they are no-go zones for Jews."

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters had gathered in London last Saturday to call for a ceasefire and urge the government to stop all arms sales to Israel.

Crowds waved Palestinian flags, chanted "free Palestine" and held signs calling for a "ceasefire now".