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Met Police inspector says ‘political interference’ over Palestine protests creates confusion

A Met Police inspector has told i that political interference is creating “confusion” amid rising tensions between the force and the Home Office over posters of Israeli hostages being torn down.

The Met Police said on Wednesday that people filmed ripping down posters of Israeli hostages in central London did not appear to have had committed any offences.

Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley said officers must operate on the right side of “the line of the law” but added: “It’s our job to enforce to that line, it’s Parliament’s job to draw that line.”

A video posted on X by Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer showed several people in Leicester Square ripping down posters of missing Israelis who are believed to be among those currently being held captive by Hamas.

The Met said it had been made aware of the video but told i: “At this time, no offences have been identified.” They did however say that officers will continue to be in the area to carry out “reassurance patrols”.

Charles Ehikioya, Met Police inspector and chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, told i: “Clearly there is the issue of political interference that is creating confusion.”

Met Police Inspector and chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association Charles Ehikioya (Photo: Supplied)
Met Police Inspector and chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association Charles Ehikioya (Photo: Supplied)

“I would say the police will be obviously confident to handle the situation based on the law… the situation to do with the Gaza situation is not the usual run of the mill public order [issue],” Inspector Ehikioya added.

“One has to be a little bit careful when trying to deliver policing services and ensuring that there is there is no ambiguity around the position of policing around impartiality.

“Because it’s easy for one reaction to be interpreted as taking sides with the other or not. Whatever is going to cause offence and it’s clearly stated in law, then police obviously have to act.”

He added that officers also have to maintain respect and consider the sensitivities of the situation.

“People’s emotional reaction gets the better of them and then they want to interpret what the law should be in comparison with what the officers are doing.”

Inspector Ehikioya added that this debate over should officers intervene or not doesn’t stop officers from doing their job but makes it harder, adds another dimension to policing requirements.

His comments come just days after Home Secretary Suella Braverman questioned Scotland Yard’s lack of action against protesters who chanted “jihad” during a Palestine rally.

When asked by i why the Met Police did not consider the pulling down of Hamas hostage posters as an offence but did consider the defacing of those posters with a Hitler moustache as a hate crime – a spokesperson referred to recent comments made by the head of the Met Police, Sir Mark Rowley, following a meeting he had held with the Home Secretary.

In the interview, Sir Mark said: “We are absolutely ruthless in tackling anybody who puts their foot over the legal line. We’re accountable to the law. We can’t enforce taste or decency. But we can enforce the law.”

He said officers must operate on the right side of “the line of the law” but added: “It’s our job to enforce to that line, it’s Parliament’s job to draw that line and the thought that maybe events of the moment are illustrating that maybe some of the lines aren’t in the right place.”

“I think that the law we’ve designed around hate crime and terrorism over recent decades hasn’t taken full account of the ability of extremist groups to steer around those laws and propagate some pretty toxic messages through social media,” he said.

“And those lines probably need redrawing – it’s a really difficult thing to do.”

Russell Langer at the Jewish Leadership Council told i: “It’s deeply saddening to witness how a simple plea for the release of hostages can incite such actions on the streets of London.

“To tear down posters advocating for innocent lives, including children and the elderly, shows a lack of empathy and humanity.”

Michael Newman at the Association of Jewish Refugees added: “The horrific atrocities inflicted by Hamas and the uprise in antisemitic acts in this country, underscores the vital importance of educating the nation about the history of antisemitism and its role in the Holocaust, to better understand how prejudice and hate speech can contribute to violence, mass atrocity and genocide.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office is in regular contact with the Met Police and other police forces about protests and other operational matters.

“Arrest and charging decisions are a matter for the operationally independent police and CPS, who have briefed all commanders clarifying guidance they should be using as they police protests over the weekend.

“The Home Secretary has encouraged the police to act immediately to crackdown on criminality in relation to any chants which may constitute a criminal offence.”

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