The Metropolitan Police has responded to a photo circulating social media showing one of its officers wearing a sticker saying “Boycott Israeli Apartheid”.
It promoted calls for the officer to be sacked, with users on X, formerly Twitter, saying it was a sign of antisemitism within the force, and of a so-called "two-tier" standard of policing regarding pro-Palestinian protesters.
The picture is understood to have been taken during a pro-Palestine rally in London on Saturday 3, February, and was shared online by Jewish anti-hate charity Campaign Against Antisemitism. The Met's deputy assistant commissioner, Matt Ward, has since responded, confirming someone else had placed the sticker on the officer's arm.
"We have spoken to the officer and his colleagues. He confirmed the sticker was placed on him without his knowledge. A member of the public witnessed this and quickly removed it," he said.
Driver charged after car hits crowd at Palestine protest in Scotland (The Independent)
"The officer has been shaken by the online commentary overnight and we are supporting him. I am always disappointed when officers undertaking their public duties are subject to such disrespectful behaviour, both in person and online. No further action will be taken."
Responding to the deputy assistant commissioner's post, pro-EU activist Jane Riekemann wrote: "It’s appalling that people tweeted negatively about this officer without finding out the facts. Think before you tweet."
Apologising for condemning the officer in the picture, photographer Ben Hopper wrote: "I am relieved this is the case! Thank you for taking time seriously looking into this. I apologise for my personal call to sack him; 145,000+ Londoner Jews (myself inc) feel unsafe in London and across the UK.
Contempt for the police amongst anti-Israel marchers has reached the point where slogans are being slapped on unwitting police officers.
During yesterday’s anti-Israel march, a Metropolitan Police officer stood with a “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” sticker on his arm.
We asked… pic.twitter.com/1ncRZB901Z
— Campaign Against Antisemitism (@antisemitism) February 4, 2024
"Seeing such stickers on police forces which are meant to protect us when we're being assaulted (and we are) can be extremely triggering. I am still worried about people's apathetic response to Jews' honest worry and fear. I am also angry there was a clown who stuck this sticker on his shoulder in the first place; a bully who supports terror."
In a post on Sunday, following the Met's clarification, Campaign Against Antisemitism wrote: "Contempt for the police amongst anti-Israel marchers has reached the point where slogans are being slapped on unwitting police officers.
"During yesterday’s anti-Israel march, a Metropolitan Police officer stood with a 'Boycott Israeli Apartheid'm sticker on his arm. We asked the Met to investigate and they have confirmed that the sticker was placed on the officer by one of the marchers without the officer noticing."
Some followers called on the charity to apologise for its previous post, while others asked how someone was able to place a sticker on the officer without anyone noticing.
Thousands march through London demanding Gaza ceasefire
Saturday's rally through central London saw more than 10,000 people calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Hundreds of officers from the Metropolitan Police were on duty with additional dispersal powers as the march started at Portland Place and headed to Whitehall.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said it was the “eighth national march held for the Palestinian people” since the war, which was triggered by the surprise attack on southern Israel by Hamas on October 7, which saw 1,200 people killed and over 240 taken hostage.
According to health officials in Gaza, over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, as Israel continues a fierce ground and air assault on the besieged territory.
The Metropolitan Police said people were seen trying to disrupt the protest in Haymarket on Saturday, and a woman was arrested on suspicion of setting off a smoke bomb or flare.
A second woman, who was allegedly chanting slogans that may incite racial hatred, was arrested over a suspected public order offence. Officers were on the lookout for offensive placards and banners, with staff also monitoring the protest by CCTV to sport other offences or to find suspects, a spokesman said.
Why has the Met Police been criticised over pro-Palestine protests?
The Metropolitan Police became the centre of a row when former home secretary Suella Braverman accused its officers of "playing favourites".
In an unauthorised op-ed for the Times in November, she suggested officers were overly lenient with pro-Palestine protesters compared to far right demonstrators. Separately, she said anyone caught vandalising the Cenotaph on Armistice Day "must be put into a jail cell faster than their feet can touch the ground", despite no indication that pro-Palestinian marchers were planning on visiting the war memorial.
As a result, Braverman was accused of whipping a mob of far right counter-protesters into a frenzy on 11 November and she was subsequently fired by prime minister Rishi Sunak. While the Met Police has been making efforts to track down people displaying antisemitic and hateful imagery at pro-Palestine rallies, the force still faces criticism for not doing enough to stamp the problem out.
In October, Braverman challenged Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on his officers' decision not to arrest protesters chanting "jihad" in a video of a smaller protest held by the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is now to be banned in the UK. Rowley suggested there were gaps in the law that needed tightening up, arguing it is not his officers' job to enforce "taste and decency".
With pro-Palestine protests now a regular occurrence across the country, Braverman's replacement as home secretary, James Cleverly, has announced new plans that could see protesters who climb on war memorials facing up to three months in prison and a £1,000 fine.
The Cabinet minister, who was a Territorial Army officer in the Royal Artillery, said: “Recent protests have seen a small minority dedicated to causing damage and insulting those who paid the ultimate price for their freedom to protest.
“Peaceful protest is fundamental in our county, but climbing on our war memorials is an insult to these monuments of remembrance and cannot continue."