Rishi Sunak today warned police he expects them to tackle extremism “head-on” amid a furious row with Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Mark Rowley over calls for “jihad” at a protest, which Rowley said had a “a number of meanings”. Not in this context, Mark! The Mail has more.
The Prime Minister warned that the chanting at events in London at the weekend was a “threat” to British Jews and the country’s “democratic values” as he addressed MPs this afternoon.
It came after Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Mark hit back at criticism of his officers for failing to intervene to arrest extremists.
He blamed ministers for the soft policing of anti-Israel protests after a showdown meeting with Suella Braverman, insisting police were “ruthless” about tackling demonstrators who stepped over the legal line.
He argued that police could only “enforce the law” and it is “Parliament’s job” to write that – suggesting that extremists are get around the existing restrictions on hate speech.
But facing MPs this afternoon Mr Sunak said officers had the powers they needed to arrest people for inciting racial hatred.
“We have seen hate on our streets again this weekend. We all stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. That is the message I brought to President Abbas. But we will never tolerate antisemitism in our country,” he said.
“Calls for jihad on our streets are not only a threat to the Jewish community but to our democratic values and we expect the police to take all necessary action to tackle extremism head on.”
Later, in reply to a question about the protest marches from Tory MP Andrew Percy, the PM added: “Of course the police are operationally independent but the Home Secretary has a role in holding police forces to account and as members will know she has raised this matter with the Met Police Commissioner at their meeting earlier today.
“Anyone who commits a crime, whether that be inciting racial hatred, glorifying terrorism or violating public order, should expect to face the full force of the law.”
Sir Mark said he believed Ms. Braverman was looking at whether legislation needed to be toughened up – something that has been backed by Keir Starmer. Some 34 arrests have been made and the force is trying to track another 22 suspects from images.
However, Downing Street insisted that officers already have enough powers to deal with such situations, suggesting they need to “deployed”.
Around 100,000 people attended a rally on Whitehall on Saturday, where protesters scaled buildings and shouted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – which Ms. Braverman has condemned as an “antisemitic staple” calling for the “destruction of Israel”.
In one demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy, police watched as members of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir – which has been banned in almost all Arab countries – were filmed shouting “jihad” and calling for “Muslim armies” to fight Israel.
However, the Met insisted the “word jihad has a number of meanings” and it did not believe any offences had been committed.
Worth reading in full.