Prime Minister calls on police chief to rebuild trust among Jewish community

Britain’s biggest police force needs to rebuild the trust of the Jewish community after an antisemitism campaigner was threatened with arrest at a pro-Palestine demonstration, the Prime Minister has said.

Rishi Sunak told journalists that he shared public shock and anger over exchanges between Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), and officers policing the protest in central London on April 13.

But he said he has confidence in the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Mark Rowley, if the commissioner works to rebuild the confidence and trust of the Jewish community and the wider public.

Sir Mark has faced calls to resign from Mr Falter and former home secretary Suella Braverman, who has made no secret of her critical views of how the Metropolitan Police has dealt with protests.

He met on Monday with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who said he has “full confidence” in Sir Mark, and Home Secretary James Cleverly.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference: “I share the shock and the anger that many are feeling when they saw the clips over the weekend.

“And you know what I would say about Mark Rowley and the police, they do have a difficult job, of course I appreciate that.

“But what happened was clearly wrong. And it’s right that they’ve apologised for that.

“And yes, I do have confidence in him, but that’s on the basis that he works to rebuild the confidence and trust of not just the Jewish community, but the wider public, particularly people in London but more broadly.

“And you regain that trust and that confidence by making it clear that the police are not tolerating behaviour that we would all collectively deem unacceptable when we see it because it undermines our values.

“And I think that is critical. And I know the Home Secretary will be meeting the commissioner later today.”

Israel-Hamas conflict
Campaign Against Antisemitism chief executive Gideon Falter speaking to a Metropolitan Police officer (Campaign Against Antisemitism/PA)

Representatives of Jewish community groups including the Community Security Trust and London Jewish Forum met with Sir Mark and Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads public order policing, on Monday morning.

The CST said it would continue to push for a reduction in the number of pro-Palestine protests permitted in central London.

It released a statement following the meeting that said: “We will continue our dialogue with police later this week to express our concerns regarding the cumulative impact of the repeated anti-Israel protests in terms of disruption and intimidation of the Jewish community.

“We urge the police and Government to work together to find ways to limit this impact through reducing the number of protests, moving them to less disruptive locations and acting firmly and consistently whenever offences are committed by people on the demonstrations.”

Rishi Sunak told the press conference it was right that the Metropolitan Police had apologised.
Rishi Sunak told a press conference it was right that the Metropolitan Police had apologised after the incident (Toby Melville/PA)

Following the meeting with Sir Mark, Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “Jewish people will always have the right to be able to go about their daily lives safely and freely, in London and across the UK.

“Sir Mark has reassured me he will make this clear to all sections of the community as a matter of urgency. The Met’s focus now is rightly on reassurance, learning from what happened, and ensuring that Jewish people are safe and feel safe in London. I support them in that critical endeavour.

“Public order policing is complex and challenging, but it remains incumbent on Sir Mark and the Mayor of London to ensure that London is always a safe and welcoming city.

“The force’s focus should be on policing protests properly and fairly, and we will continue to back forces in using all necessary powers to manage these often difficult situations and to keep people safe.”

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “It was a good, frank and constructive discussion with the Commissioner. He has Sadiq’s full confidence in policing London. London is policed by consent and they both agreed getting community relations right is fundamental to that.

“The Commissioner has assured the Mayor that he will continue to drive forward change to ensure the Met does a better job commanding the confidence of all London’s communities and learns the lessons from recent events on how to engage and communicate with them better.

“Sadiq will be unflinching in holding the police to account as the changes that are desperately needed continue to be made. Londoners have his word that he will not rest until they have the police service they deserve – one that is representative, trusted and truly fit for purpose.”

Sky News published a 13-minute video of the exchanges between Mr Falter and police officers, including one in which an officer described Mr Falter, who was wearing a kippah, as “openly Jewish”.

The force has apologised twice over the incident on April 13, issuing one initial statement and then apologising for its first apology which had suggested opponents of pro-Palestinian marches “must know that their presence is provocative”.

The footage of the exchange shows Mr Falter telling police he wants to cross a road to reach Kingsway in central London as crowds of pro-Palestine protesters pass.

He tells one officer: “The Metropolitan Police says that these marches are completely safe for Jews, there is no problem whatsoever.

“You are telling me that I cannot walk to the other pavement. That I have to be escorted by you.”

Jewish charity the Community Security Trust has called for fewer pro-Palestine demonstrations to take place in central London.
Jewish charity the Community Security Trust has called for fewer pro-Palestine demonstrations to take place in central London (Jeff Moore/PA)

The officer said: “I am telling you that I will help you by escorting you over there and that way you will be completely safe just as we promised, so we are keeping our word.”

Mr Falter has since said he will turn up at the next pro-Palestinian march and encouraged other Jews and allies to join him.

His campaign has launched a “walk together” initiative to follow the route of the march and “force the police to make sure that these things are safe for Jewish people”.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We’ve been gaslit, essentially, for months now by the Met, because the Met keeps saying ‘these things are safe, nothing to worry about, they’re brilliantly policed’, and the reality is that’s not true and it’s so badly policed, that if you are a Jew on the sideline of this thing, they have to threaten you with arrest to get rid of you.”

Sir Mark himself has reiterated the force’s apology and acknowledged that some officers’ actions had increased “concerns”.