Who is Gideon Falter, and what did the Metropolitan Police say to him?

Who is Gideon Falter, and what did the Metropolitan Police say to him?
Met criticised over arrest threat to ‘openly Jewish’ man near pro-Palestine demo

An interaction between the Metropolitan Police and chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), Gideon Falter, at a Palestine march has continued to be a source of contention - weeks after the demonstration took place.

Following the rally in London on 13 April, the Campaign Against Antisemitism shared a video to social media in which officers can be seen speaking to Falter at the event.

A male officer is filmed telling the chief executive: “You are quite openly Jewish. This is a pro-Palestinian march. I’m not accusing you of anything, but I am worried about the reaction to your presence.”

Another comments: “I am just trying to make sure you are safe and that no one attacks you or your group or anyone else, that’s all.”

Falter, meanwhile, is heard saying he wants to cross the road while the demonstration is taking place.

An officer goes on to add: “There’s a unit of people here now, you will be escorted out of this area, so you can go about your business or go where you want freely. Or, if you choose to remain here, because you are causing a breach of the peace, with all these other people, you will be arrested … because your presence here is antagonising a large group of people.”

What Falter has said

In the video released by the CAA on Thursday, Falter explained he went to synagogue and then met up with others “to go on a walkabout around London”.

“We were just walking wherever we wanted to, as Jews, as free Londoners, supposedly able to go wherever we wanted to. Except, we weren’t able to go wherever we wanted to.

“On Aldwych, we were suddenly pulled aside by a police officer, who said our very presence could antagonise crowds, and even lead to us being attacked.

“The result is that after months of being gaslit by the Met, it’s not safe for Jews to be walking in the presence of these protests.

“The obvious answer is for the Metropolitan Police to use its existing powers, under the Public Order Act, either to curtail these marches, or ban them altogether … because it has been six months now – six months – where every single weekend, we have to witness the streets of London awash with people, many of whom seem to have no problem at all declaring their full-throated support for Hamas, waving around antisemitic placards, calling for jihad, showing swastikas, waving antisemitic flags, it’s enough.”

What the Metropolitan Police has said

In its initial response to the video, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Saturday: “We are aware of this video and we fully acknowledge the worry it has caused, not only to those featured, but also anyone who watches it, and will review the circumstances.

“We have always said that we recognise the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to be an issue of concern for many Londoners, and this includes the regular protests and marches in central London.

“Everyone has the right to travel throughout the capital in safety.

“We will meet and discuss with anyone who wishes to organise a march or protest ahead of 27 April.”

A day later, the force released a further statement in which it suggested opponents of the marches “must know that their presence is provocative” and they are “increasing the likelihood of an altercation” by lining the route to object.

The Met later issued a follow-up comment in which it admitted the use of the term “openly Jewish” by a Met Police officer is “hugely regrettable” and addressed the reaction to its prior response, which CAA branded “appalling, abject victim-blaming”.

It continues: “We have reflected on the strength of the response to our previous statement. In an effort to make a point about the policing of protest we caused further offence. This was never our intention. We have removed that statement and we apologise.

“Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in this city.

“Our commitment to protecting the public extends to all communities across London. It’s important that our public statements reflect that more clearly than they did today.”

What politicians have said

A spokesman for Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said the Met’s response to the incident was “concerning” and criticised its initial statement as “insensitive and wrong”.

He 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.”

During a Downing Street press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters: “What happened was clearly wrong. And it’s right that they’ve apologised for that.

“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.”

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley met with both Khan and James Cleverly, the home secretary, on Monday, after which 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 petition has since been set up calling on Sir Mark to resign, which has received more than 9,400 signatures at the time of writing.

Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

How to join the indy100's free WhatsApp channel

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

The Conversation (0)