Met Police 'openly Jewish' scandal: Claire Coutinho on calls for Mark Rowley sacking - 'wouldn't go that far'

Appearing on the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, Claire Coutinho stopped short of calling for the sacking of Met chief Sir Mark Rowley.
Video footage shows a Met Police officer in an exchange with  Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, next to a pro-Palestinian march.Video footage shows a Met Police officer in an exchange with  Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, next to a pro-Palestinian march.
Video footage shows a Met Police officer in an exchange with Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, next to a pro-Palestinian march.

The home secretary has written to the Met Police commissioner in a growing scandal over the policing of antisemitism in London.

The chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), Gideon Falter, has called for Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to resign or be sacked over policing of pro-Palestinian protests.

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A video published by the CAA shows a police officer preventing Mr Falter from walking through a protest, describing him as “quite openly Jewish”. Another clip shows Mr Falter threatened with arrest for a breach of the peace if he does not move along.

The mass pro-Palestinian protest in London on April 13 was one of a series calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, which has seen tens of thousands of people killed during Israel’s response to the terrorist atrocities of October 7.

The Met Police has faced criticism for its handling of antisemitism among some in the crowd, although Jewish protesters who have joined the marches have disputed claims the demonstrations have become “no-go zones”.

Energy secretary Claire Coutinho was interviewed on the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg programme on Sunday morning (April 21), saying: "I think what has happened is a serious misstep because we can't be saying to particular groups in society that their very presence is a provocation. You don't want anybody of any community to feel like that - which is how the Jewish community has been made to feel."

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She pointed the finger at Labour, saying that "the person, ultimately, who has responsibility to make sure that the Met is accountable is the Labour mayor". Ms Kuenssberg pointed out that the power to fire the commissioner lies with the home secretary, Conservative James Cleverly.

Asked whether Mr Rowley should be fired, Ms Coutinho said: "I, personally, wouldn't go that far because I haven't had the conversations with him. I don't understand, yet, what he's going to say to the home secretary. Those conversations need to take place."

It is understood policing minister Chris Philp will be meeting Mr Rowley about the issue.

Mr Falter said on Saturday: “What happened to me was a disgrace. Imagine what it felt like to be told by police officers that being ‘quite openly Jewish’ would ‘antagonise’ people and so I must leave the area on pain of arrest.

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“However it is what happened next that is such a stain on the reputation of the Met Police. Nearly a week after the incident, Sir Mark’s assistant commissioner issued a statement calling my presence ‘provocative’ and saying that by making public what had happened, I had put a ‘dent in the confidence of many Jewish Londoners’.”

He added: “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.”

‘Quiet openly Jewish’

On Thursday the Campaign Against Antisemitism posted a video on X, in which a Met Police officer, whose face is blurred out, addresses its chief executive, Gideon Falter, next to a pro-Palestinian march on April 13.

The office tells Mr Falter: “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.”

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Mr Falter was told by another officer his presence at the march was causing a “breach of peace” and that he could be arrested if he did not move on.

He said last week: “I was not part of any protest or counterprotest, and was not wearing any stickers or carrying any signs, flags or the like. I was exercising my right to walk around my home city as a Jewish Londoner. A year ago, that would not have been controversial. But now, it is.”

He said his interactions with officers that day show that the police believe the marches are not safe for Jews.

“Instead of addressing that threat of antisemitic violence, the Met’s policy instead seems to be that law-abiding Jewish Londoners should not be in the parts of London where these marches are taking place,” he said. “In other words, that they are no-go zones for Jews.”

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Jewish protesters in support of Palestine have disputed the claim that the protests are “no-go zones for Jews”.

On Saturday the Guardian published a statement from a group of Holocaust survivors and the children of those who survived it, who said they disagreed with Falter’s comments.

“We experienced nothing but warmth and solidarity from the pro-Palestine demonstrators and not a hint of antisemitism,” they said. “Our group was ‘openly Jewish’ in that we all wore placards saying that, as descendants of Holocaust survivors, we oppose the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Every major pro-Palestine demonstration in London has included a large Jewish bloc, which has received nothing but support and warmth from their fellow demonstrators. Claims that these protests are no-go zones for Jews are completely untrue.”


A Met spokesperson initially said that the force would “review the circumstances” around the video, adding "Everyone has the right to travel throughout the capital in safety.”

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It then issued an apology, which was later withdrawn, in which it said people opposed to the protest “must know that their presence is provocative”.

In a fresh statement on X, it said: “The use of the term ‘openly Jewish’ by one of our officers is hugely regrettable. We know it will have caused offence to many. We reiterate our apology. 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.”

‘Everybody must feel safe’

Home secretary James Cleverly has written to the Met and the mayor of London Sadiq Khan about the incident.

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A spokesperson for Mr Khan told the BBC: "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."

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign was approached for comment.

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