The mayor of an east London borough who came under criticism for raising the Palestinian flag on top of a town hall has said the flag has since been ripped down in a "perceived act of vandalism".
Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, provoked controversy when he followed both Preston and Bradford’s example by tweeting a picture of the Palestinian flag flying above the Mulberry Place town hall in the Dockland’s on Wednesday.
This morning, Tower Hamlets Police announced that the flag had been taken down, with the tweet: “Good Morning - it has been confirmed that the flag has been removed.”
This afternoon, Mr Rahman said he took the decision to fly the flag yesterday "as a humanitarian gesture of solidarity with the victims of the Gaza crisis" following concerns raised by local residents over the conflict.
Staff at the town hall then found the flag had been ripped down this morning.
"Some have suggested that raising the Palestinian flag is to take sides, however my decision was in solidarity with civilian Palestinian victims and I share the view of the UN that these civilians have been unfairly and disproportionately targeted,” said Mr Rahman.
“Sometimes politicians need to take a stand in the face of injustice and needless suffering and that is what I am doing.
"Two council motions were passed last night (30 July) calling for an end to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“Today council facilities staff found the flag had been ripped from the flagpole in an act of perceived vandalism."
His decision to raise the flag was widely criticised across social media, with many condemning such a display of solidarity with one side of an ongoing conflict on a community building.
Jonathan Arkush, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, slammed the move as "totally inappropriate" and "destructive of relations between the communities that make up our capital city."
The Communities Minister Brandon Lewis described his decision as a "clear political statement on an area of public policy which the municipal body has no responsibility". He told the BBC that flying the flag would "achieve absolutely nothing" and would create divisions "where there ought not to be division".
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “We can confirm police attended the Tower Hamlets town hall this morning following comments on social networking feeds relating to the Palestinian flag being raised on the building last night. On arrival the flag had already been taken down.”