London mayor Sadiq Khan to meet Met Commissioner over Gaza protest handling

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has summoned the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to discuss “community relations”, after a row about the force’s handling of pro-Palestinian protests.

Sir Mark Rowley will meet Mr Khan on Monday after an outcry over an incident in which an antisemitism campaigner was threatened with arrest near a demonstration on April 13.

The Commissioner is also expected to meet the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, in the coming days, and has come under pressure to resign after a series of criticisms of the Met’s approach to protests over the past six months.

However, Government sources have played down the possibility that Sir Mark could be sacked and he is understood to retain the confidence of the mayor.

The most recent row followed publication of footage showing an officer describing Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), as “openly Jewish” and another saying he would be arrested if he did not leave the vicinity of the protest as his presence was “antagonising”.

The force apologised, before being forced to issue another statement apologising for its first apology, which had suggested opponents of pro-Palestinian marches “must know that their presence is provocative”.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist has also written to Mr Falter, offering him a private meeting “to both apologise to him personally and discuss what more the Met can do to ensure Jewish Londoners feel safe”.

The CAA said Mr Falter had accepted Mr Twist’s apology and would be able to meet the Commissioner on Monday.

He has also spoken to Met Police Federation chairman Rick Prior and discussed “how the change we need is not from frontline officers but the top of the Met, which has repeatedly put these officers in impossible situations”.

Both Mr Falter and former home secretary Suella Braverman called for Sir Mark to go, accusing him of “emboldening” antisemites by failing to curtail the now regular marches through the capital.

While Government sources have expressed condemnation of the incident involving Mr Falter, they have been keen to stress that nobody in Government is threatening Sir Mark’s position.

One source said: “The PM has seen the footage and is as appalled as everyone else by the officer calling Mr Falter ‘openly Jewish’.

“He expects the Met Commissioner to account for how it happened and what he will do to ensure officers do more to make Jewish communities in London feel safe – and Sadiq Khan to do his job in holding the Met to account.”

Sadiq Khan
The Government has said mayor of London Sadiq Khan should hold Sir Mark Rowley to account for his force’s actions (Yui Mok/PA)

Both the Mayor and the Home Secretary have responsibility for holding the commissioner to account, although the mayor is the one tasked with setting the strategic direction for policing in London.

A spokesman for Mr Khan said the Met’s handling of the incident was “concerning” and its initial statement had been “insensitive and wrong”.

The spokesman added: “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.”

Sir Mark said: “Every member of the Met is determined to ensure that London is a city in which everyone feels safe.

“We absolutely understand how vulnerable Jewish and Muslim Londoners feel since the terrorist attacks on Israel.

“Some of our actions have increased this concern. I personally reiterate our apology from earlier this week.

“Today, as with every other day, our officers will continue to police with courage, empathy and impartiality.”

In an effort to begin mending relations with London’s Jewish community, Sir Mark will also meet representatives from the London Jewish Forum and Community Security Trust, while other community representatives have been invited to observe an operational planning session on protests.

A Home Office spokesman 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.”