'I was Jewish and crossing the street': Campaigner criticises 'outrageous' reaction to row

By John Mercury April 23, 2024

The campaigner at the centre of an antisemitism row with the Metropolitan Police has criticised “outrageous” comments made by a former senior officer who said he would have considered arresting him for assault.

Gideon Falter, the chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, spoke to Sky News’ Kay Burley at Breakfast after footage showed a police officer preventing him from crossing a road near a pro-Palestinian march in London because he was “openly Jewish”.

The officer also told Mr Falter, who was wearing a kippah skull cap near the march on Saturday 13 April, that he was “worried about the reaction to your presence”.

Mr Falter has called on Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley to resign and accused the force of “victim-blaming” after the encounter.

Sky News understands Sir Mark met the home secretary today.

He also met a delegation from the Jewish community to discuss their concerns alongside other senior officers.

Following the meeting, the Community Security Trust said the Met representatives repeated their apologies and agreed to “consult more closely” with the Jewish community, including senior Jewish police officers, “to ensure greater cultural sensitivity in future communications”.

The statement said the groups would continue their dialogue with the police regarding the “cumulative impact of the repeated anti-Israel protests”.

“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,” they added.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he has confidence in Sir Mark but that he needs to rebuild “confidence and trust” with the Jewish community.

And London mayor Sadiq Khan, who has a role overseeing the Met, said he too had met Sir Mark and still had full confidence in him, but would be meeting Jewish communities again on Thursday after Passover to discuss protests.

Retired senior officer defends Met’s response

Meanwhile, former Met Chief Superintendent Dal Babu said he has seen the full 13-minute video of the incident on Sky News and saw a “different encounter” to the one Mr Falter had described.

Mr Babu said that if he had been policing the march he would have considered arresting the campaigner for “assault on a police officer and a breach of the peace”.

Mr Falter said in response: “I think it’s a pretty outrageous thing to say, I think it’s a pretty outrageous thing to be giving any credence to.

“I was Jewish. I was crossing the street”.

Mr Falter added: “I did not assault a police officer. How on Earth can anybody say that? I’m quite clearly in the video trying to continue to walk where I was going.”

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This video filmed by Sky News shows Met Police officers preventing a Jewish man from crossing a pro-Palestinian march.

Mr Babu later reaffirmed his view of the encounter and said the video shows Mr Falter pushing policing officers “out of the way” which amounts to “common assault”.

He also defended the police’s handling of the situation and said: “I think the police dealt with it and tried to be as sensitive as possible.

“I think the police officer was offering to take Mr Falter and his group to a place where they could cross more appropriately. Mr Falter was refusing to move and wanted to cross at that particular place against the march.”

Before he met the home secretary, Sir Mark said he was standing by the police officer’s actions at the demonstration, telling The Guardian: “The sergeant at the scene clearly assessed that there was a risk of confrontation and was trying to help Mr Falter find a different route.

“I completely understand why the sergeant made this assessment.

“A couple of turns of phrase were clumsy and offensive … and we’ve apologised for that.

“The wider actions and intent of the officer were professional and in the best tradition of British police trying to prevent disorder.”

He added: “The public would be horrified if we said, well, it’s obvious if those two groups come together, there’s going to be a massive fight. We’ll stand back and wait till it happens and we’ll pick up the pieces afterwards.”

Campaigner will walk near march again

The force apologised on Friday for using the term “openly Jewish”, but then had to apologise for their apology after suggesting opponents of pro-Palestinian marches “must know that their presence is provocative”.

The Met said in its initial apology that its aim was to keep people safe.

Mr Falter has said he is planning to go for a walk in the vicinity of a pro-Palestinian march again on Saturday 27 April, adding that he “should be allowed to do that”.

Read more from Sky News:
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Iran minister downplays attack
Trail of destruction in Lebanon’s ‘ghost towns’

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‘Time for Mark Rowley to go’

Falter insists he was not there to ‘counter-protest’

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, has said Mr Falter is wrong to have suggested he was “innocently going for a walk”.

“The reality was he came to the march with an entourage of four to five people and a film crew and sought to break through the stewards.

“He physically pushes himself past the police in order to walk in front of the march… he was trying to provoke a confrontation. That’s what happened.”

Mr Jamal accused the Campaign Against Antisemitism of “using the tactic of coming to the marches to provoke an incident so that they can say there are scenes of disorder and therefore the marches cannot go ahead”.

Mr Falter said he found Mr Jamal’s remarks to be “absolutely astonishing”.

He added: “I was not going to try and provoke something… what exactly does he think I’m trying to provoke by being ‘openly Jewish’?

“I was not there to counter-protest. I was not there with film crews or anything of the sort. I was simply Jewish in the vicinity of these marches.”


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