Sky News footage reveals new details of exchange between police and antisemitism campaigner called 'openly Jewish'

21 April 2024, 11:44 | Updated: 21 April 2024, 22:42

A tense, extended stand-off between police and an antisemitism campaigner where he was called "openly Jewish" and threatened with arrest yards from a pro-Palestinian march was caught on film by Sky News.

The footage gives context to the lengthy and fraught exchanges amid an increasingly volatile atmosphere, as the head of the Metropolitan Police faces calls to resign following the incident.

Scotland Yard has already had to apologise twice after a short video clip emerged on social media, where Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, was blocked by an officer close to the protest in the Aldwych area of London on Saturday 13 April.

An initial apology by Met assistant commissioner Matt Twist had to be retracted after it suggested the presence of Mr Falter, who was wearing a kippah skull cap, was "provocative", leading to a rebuke from the Home Office.

Mr Twist has since offered a private meeting to Mr Falter to both apologise personally and "discuss what more the Met can do to ensure Jewish Londoners feel safe".

London mayor Sadiq Khan will hold an "urgent meeting" with Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on Monday, while Home Secretary James Cleverly and policing minister Chris Philp will also meet him this week.

In the Sky News footage, the activist insisted he was only trying to cross the road down which the demonstration was passing, but this is disputed by an officer in the new footage, who said Mr Falter had deliberately walked head-on into the crowd and accused him of being "disingenuous" and seeking to "antagonise" the marchers.

Sky News has decided not to identify the officer.

Extended exchange

As emotions continue to run high over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the Sky News footage shows a Met police sergeant explaining to Mr Falter that it was a "big demonstration" and barring his way to the march.

When Mr Falter asked if it was because he is Jewish, the officer nods and says "unfortunately".

The officer said: "Unfortunately, sir you took it upon yourself to go from the pavement right into the middle of a pro-Palestinian march, which is why I asked you to go away."

He added: "You are looking to try and antagonise this."

"So I can already see what your mindset is, sir."

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Taking issue with this, Mr Falter said: "My mindset? My mindset is I am Jewish in London and I can walk where I want."

The officer then said: "Please don't be too disingenuous sir."

Mr Falter said: "I am not being disingenuous, I can walk wherever the hell I want.

"If I want to walk to that pavement that is what I am going to do and you are going to have to arrest me."

The officer said: "I would rather not do that."

Mr Falter said: "I want to get out of here, I want to go across there."

The officer then said: "I tell you what, come with me, let's get you out of here. If that's what you want, come on.

"I am going to get you out over here, you are going to have to do the long way - there are so many people."

Mr Falter said: "Why can't I just walk where I want to walk?"

The officer said: "Because there is a big demonstration."

He added: "I will walk you out and then you can go. You can see all the Israeli flags over there, I will walk you over there."

Mr Falter said: "I don't walk with the Israeli flags or any flags."

The officer replied: "I am not asking you to walk with them but that is the route I will take you out."

Asking the officer "to listen to me for a second", Mr Falter said: "The Metropolitan Police says that these marches are completely safe for Jews, there is no problem whatsoever.

"You are telling me that I cannot walk to the other pavement. That I have to be escorted by you."

The officer said: "I am telling you that I will help you by escorting you over there and that way you will be completely safe just as we promised, so we are keeping our word."

Mr Falter said: "I am only safe basically if I have a police escort, is that what you are telling me?"

The officer said: "I am offering it to you sir.

"I have already seen you deliberately leave the pavement and walk against this march. You chose to do that."

Mr Falter said: "I was trying to get to the other side of the road."

Amid the ongoing exchange, the noisy march continued in the background with protesters carrying placards and chanting "Palestine will be free."

'Antagonise'

After several more exchanges, Mr Falter asked if it was because he was Jewish he was being stopped from crossing the road as it would "antagonise" the crowd.

The officer said: "You are quite obviously Jewish in appearance, you are outwardly demonstrating your faith."

He added: "You decided to walk out into the road... and deliberately walk against the flow of people.

"This is quite clearly a pro-Palestinian demonstration. My concern is that your behaviour changed.

"You were at first on the footway, you were not causing any issues. You then decided to move into the road, not to cross it but walk against the flow of people."

Mr Falter said: "What are you talking about? I was walking across the road."

The officer then said: "I am sorry, which word didn't you understand? You were walking against the flow of people.

"That's why I asked you to move to the pavement."

When Mr Falter asked if he would be allowed to cross the road if he removed his kippah, the officer said he would not because he was not confident he would not put it back on.

Someone unidentified can then be heard to say: "You are going round in circles now lads."

Threat of arrest

The campaigner then spoke to another officer who said if he remained he would be arrested.

He was told his presence was "antagonising" a large group of people "and we can't deal with all of that if they attack you".

The officer said: "You deliberately tried to walk through the group.

"I watched what you did, you were walking through them in a straight line."

Pointing away from the march, the officer added: "When you have a route here that offers you no resistance whatsoever it is an antagonistic action to take."

Mr Falter restated he would like to cross the road as someone could be heard to shout "baby killers".

He again moved to the pavement, where protesters had gathered with flags and placards, leading a police officer to put a restraining arm around him.

As well as chants of "Palestine will be free" there were also shouts of "shame on you" and "scum".

The original police sergeant asked Mr Falter: "Where are you looking to go now? You are still heading the wrong way."

As the situation appeared to grow even more volatile, the officer repeated his offer to escort Mr Falter away as he continued to remonstrate with police arguing they had failed to deal with protesters "behaving badly".

Pro-Palestinian protesters, some of them masked, chanted at Mr Falter: "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."

The chant is viewed by some pro-Israel supporters as a way to call for the eradication of the Israeli state. Some pro-Palestinian supporters reject this, saying it is simply expressing the need for equality for all inhabitants of historic Palestine.