Sadiq Khan to meet Met chief after force makes fresh apology over 'openly Jewish' comments

Sir Mark Rowley will meet Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on Monday to discuss “community relations” after the Metropolitan Police came under fire over the force's handling of pro-Palestinian protests.

Met chief Sir Mark is under growing pressure with Rishi Sunak said to be “appalled” by a video showing an officer calling a man "openly Jewish" and threatening him with arrest.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and former home secretary Suella Braverman called for the Commissioner to resign or be sacked, accusing him of having “emboldened” antisemites.

While on Monday he was urged by Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell to give “better leadership” over how pro-Gaza marches in London are policed after the “deeply regrettable” incident.

In an article in The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Braverman said people who were “flagrantly antisemitic” were being “waved on by the police” as she demanded Sir Mark’s resignation.

She said: “Either this is gross incompetence, or it’s a culture coming from the top, where thugs are free to intimidate and harass while the rest of us have to keep our mouths shut and stay out of the way.”

In a statement, the CAA’s chief executive, Gideon Falter, said: “Racists, extremists and terrorist sympathisers have watched the excuses and inertia of the Met under his command and been emboldened by his inaction at precisely the moment when he should be signalling a renewed determination to crack down on this criminality.

“What the Met under Sir Mark has done to the Jewish community over the course of six months is utterly unforgivable and it is time for him to go. Enough is enough.”

Mr Falter has been at the centre of a row about the policing of demonstrations after the CAA published footage of a police officer describing him as “openly Jewish” during a protest in central London on April 13.

In the clip, another officer told Mr Falter he would be arrested if he did not leave the area because he was “causing a breach of peace with all these other people” as his presence was “antagonising”.

A government source on Sunday said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is "appalled" at the incident.

Other figures including Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden were highly critical of the Met but stopped short of saying Sir Mark should go.

Mr Dowden told The Sunday Telegraph that the force had been “disrespecting” Jews while Lord Walney, the Government’s adviser on political violence, accused the Met of displaying “institutional antisemitism”.

Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell on Monday said that there were “strategic” issues that needed addressing in policing protests.

“The police officer was just trying to make sure that there wasn’t an incident, there wasn’t trouble,” he said. “It’s very important to recognise that the police are havingto make extremely difficult decisions but they need better leadership and better direction from the top so that this sort of issue does not happen.

“There needs to be a clearer understanding by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, by the senior officers who make decisions about the way in which these marches are policed to ensure that this deeply regretable incident is not repeated.”

The Met apologised again on Sunday night, and has said it is “doing everything possible to ensure Jewish Londoners feel safe in this city”.

A statement added: “We know recent events and some of our recent actions have contributed to concerns felt by many.

“It’s crucial we listen to those feeling unsafe to go about their daily lives and take immediate action to address their concerns. Their experiences must continue to shape our plans.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters clash with police officers outside One Curzon during a demonstration on April 15 (Getty Images)
Pro-Palestinian protesters clash with police officers outside One Curzon during a demonstration on April 15 (Getty Images)

Mr Falter said his treatment had been “a disgrace” and “the inevitable conclusion of six months of inertia and contextualising crimes away by a Met that has curtailed the rights of law-abiding Londoners in order to appease mobs rife with anti-Jewish racists and terrorist sympathisers”.

The police said assistant commissioner Matt Twist has written to Gideon Falter to offer a private meeting to both apologise to him personally and discuss what more the Met can do to ensure Jewish Londoners feel safe.

On Sunday evening, the Met has invited senior representatives from across London’s Jewish communities, officials from the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime, members of the House of Lords and selected media to an operational planning exercise.

“This would ordinarily be undertaken in private, but in recognition of the need to engage better and provide reassurance we are inviting community leaders to join us,” a statement added.

Sir Mark has said he will meet with senior representatives from the Jewish community including from the London Jewish Forum and Community Security Trust on Monday.

The Met statement concluded: “We will do everything we can to constantly develop our approach in response to operational challenges to ensure the trust and confidence of all Londoners. This is complex, but we will continue to seek the support and insight of all voices who can help us deliver the service London deserves.”

Policing minister Chris Philp said on Saturday he was “deeply concerned” and would meet Sir Mark the following week to discuss the incident.

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.”

Cabinet minister Claire Coutinho declined to call for the Met Commissioner to resign over the force's handling of pro-Palestinian protests, saying it was a matter for Sadiq Khan.

Asked on Sky News whether Sir Mark should stand down, the Energy Security Secretary did not answer either way, saying: "I think what happened was completely wrong.

"It's not right that one group of people in society should be told they can't go around their daily lives because it might be a provocation to someone else. That's not how equality works in this country.

"So I do think they've got it wrong. I think it's right that they've apologised, and ultimately, what happens next is a matter for the Labour London Mayor who has the responsibility to hold the Met to account."

The Mayor of London does have the power to effectively sack the Commissioner, but can only do so with the permission of the Home Secretary, who can also require the Mayor to dismiss the head of the Met.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has written to the Met and Mr Khan about the incident.

A Home Office spokesperson 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.”

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.

“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.”