Suella Braverman accused of inciting far-right groups to challenge pro-Palestine march

Former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendant Dal Babu said the home secretary has ‘emboldened far right groups to come out’

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Thursday 09 November 2023 16:44 GMT
Former Met Chief Superintendant Dal Babu criticises Braverman’s comment

Suella Braverman has been accused of “emboldening” far right groups to stage counter protests after she blasted the police for “playing favourites” by allowing a pro-Palestine protest to go ahead on Armistice Day

The home secretary was branded “out of control” and “unhinged” for her extraordinary comments which claimed the Metropolitan Police is biased had stopped far-right protests, but permitted “pro-Palestine mobs” to demonstrate.

Ms Braverman has now been accused of ramping up tensions with her remarks after far right groups, including Tommy Robinson, vowed to stage counter demonstrations.

Former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendant Dal Babu said Mr Braverman had made the force’s job more difficult with her “unprecedented comments”.

“This has emboldened far right groups to come out – who perhaps weren’t looking to come out – on this demonstration. So it’s going to make the job for the police much more difficult than it would have been,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I have never known an occasion for the home secretary to get involved in operational policing at this level. She doesn’t understand the law, she doesn’t understand the legislation. This is operational policing matters.”

He added: “This is incredibly worrying to see the increasing politicisation of policing.”

Protesters during a pro-Palestine march organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

Former Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith also accused Ms Braverman of “further escalating” a situation which has been “badly handled”.

“She chooses the dog whistle, she chooses to ramp up the conflict,” she told LBC.

“She choose to be controversialist, as opposed to actually trying to bring people together to ensure that the streets are safe and to support the police in doing their job which is what I think home secretaries should be doing.”

Baroness Warsi, a Conservative peer, said Ms Braverman “had lit the touch paper and ignited community tensions” with her remarks.

“Couching the planned demonstration as ‘armistice day vs a hate march,’ she has pitched community against community and set a noisy call for peace against a quiet moment of reflection to mark the war,” she wrote in the Evening Standard.

Writing in The Times after the Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the controversial rally would be allowed to go ahead on Saturday, Ms Braverman said: “Right-wing and nationalist protesters who engage in aggression are rightly met with a stern response yet pro-Palestinian mobs displaying almost identical behaviour are largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law?”

“Football fans are even more vocal about the tough way they are policed as compared to politically connected minority groups favoured by the left,” she added.

Ms Braverman also claimed “there is a perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters”, before claiming some current police officers have also complained about a “double standard”.

It came after far right groups announced plans to go to London on Saturday. In a video to his supporters on Wednesday, English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson called for others to join him in the capital “to make sure that there is respect shown at our Cenotaph”.

He urged his supporters to behave with respect but added they should be “prepared to defend if they need to defend”.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Archive)

A call to arms has also been issued by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, a right-wing organisation that uses football fan networks to spread Islamophobic hate, to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with veterans on Saturday.

A post on the group’s Facebook page said: “Vets have reached out and asked for our support due to the threat from the far-left and pro-Palestinian supporters to disrupt the Remembrance Day parade.

“We are calling on all football lads up and down the country to join us in standing shoulder to shoulder with our veterans that fought for our freedom.”

Ms Braverman’s comments came after Rishi Sunak conceded the march will go ahead on Armistice Day but insisted the Metropolitan Police’s decision to allow the rally will be kept under “constant review”.

The prime minister summoned the Met’s commissioner to Downing Street on Wednesday to face questions on how he plans to keep the public safe, amid fears the “disrespectful” demonstration in London would disrupt Remembrance commemorations.

Sir Mark Rowley has resisted pressure to block the rally, insisting concerns over unrest do not meet the threshold for a banning order, which can only be obtained from the home secretary if there is a “real threat” of serious disorder.

But in a statement following his talks with Sir Mark Rowley, Mr Sunak conceded that the right to peacefully protest was among the freedoms that veterans had fought for.

He claimed that while Saturday’s planned pro-Palestine march “is not just disrespectful but offends our heartfelt gratitude” to the nation’s war dead, we will remain “true to our principles” - including the right to peacefully demonstrate.

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