Met Commissioner faces call to resign over protest row

The head of the Metropolitan Police should resign over the force's handling of pro-Palestinian protests, a group campaigning against antisemitism has said.

The Met apologised on Friday after an officer described an antisemitism campaigner as "openly Jewish" at a demonstration in London.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, had been wearing a kippah skull-cap when he was stopped in the Aldwych area of London and threatened with arrest on 13 April.

Mr Falter was told by police his presence was causing a "breach of peace".

He said police treated him like a criminal for being Jewish and accused Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley of failing to curtail the marches and allowing "countless antisemitic hate crimes" to be committed on the streets of London.

Policing Minister Chris Philp said he would meet Sir Mark to discuss his concerns.

He said: “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.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has also called for an urgent meeting with the Met commissioner following “a series of high-profile errors”.

A spokesperson said the Met had made "entirely avoidable mistakes" which have had "a devastating effect on the previously high level of trust held by the UK's Jewish community in the police".

“We have written to the commissioner to ask for an urgent meeting to reinforce the gravity of the situation and to begin to repair this grievous loss of confidence," they added.

Protesters in London
Crowds protested in London on 14 April [PA Media]

Speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Claire Coutinho, the MP for East Surrey, described the incident as a "serious misstep".

"What we can't be saying to particular groups in society that their very presence is a provocation."

The energy secretary added it was "right the Met has apologised".

Ms Coutinho confirmed that the home secretary has written to Sir Mark over the force’s handling of what happened, and suggested that the two would be in touch with each other in the coming days.

Asked if Sir Mark Rowley should resign, she said she "personally wouldn't go that far because I haven't had the conversations with him", before adding it "is really important that we stand by the Jewish community, and other communities as well".

Scotland Yard has apologised twice for the officer's phrase.

An initial apology from the Met on Friday was withdrawn after it was criticised as victim-blaming and the Met issued a second statement saying "being Jewish is not a provocation" and apologised again.

It said: "Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city."

In a video clip shot at the march, the police officer said: "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 a statement issued on Saturday, Mr Falter said what happened at the march was a "disgrace" and the Met's response in the aftermath was a "stain" on the force's reputation.

He said Sir Mark should resign or be sacked and he claimed "racists, extremists and terrorist-sympathisers" had been "emboldened" by the Met's "failure to curtail the marches".

Mr Falter said there had been a "surge" in antisemitic crime and he accused the Met of "inertia".

'Everybody must feel safe'

On Saturday, a Home Office spokesperson said the government recognised "the complexities of policing fast-moving public protests" but that being Jewish or of any other religion should not be seen as "provocative".

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

As well as writing to the Met, the Home Secretary James Cleverly has written to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan about what happened.

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."

He added the police have "an extremely difficult job" but they 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".

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow justice secretary told Sky News she did not think the commissioner should resign.

Shabana Mahmood said she could "understand the strength of feeling" and described the footage as "very concerning", but believed the commissioner's resignation was not "the way forward".

"I think the police should take all steps to maintain community confidence from all communities in the way that they go about their business on the streets of London and elsewhere."

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

Mr Falter said he had been walking in the capital after attending synagogue and was not there to counter-protest.

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 Met has faced criticism for its handling of a series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations since last October, when the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel.

Hundreds of gunmen infiltrated communities near the Gaza Strip, and about 1,200 people were killed, with more than 250 taken to Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in air and artillery strikes carried out by the Israeli military in response, Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry has said.

Listen to the best of BBC Radio London on Sounds and follow BBC London on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to

More on this story