Yellow vest protests: Who is the 'far-right element' abusing MPs outside parliament?

MPs criticise police for response to 'intimidatory and potentially criminal acts'

Police have been accused of ignoring the harassment of MPs and journalists by “far-right” demonstrators outside parliament.

Conservative MP Anna Soubry, who on Monday was subjected to chants of “Soubry is a Nazi” during television interviews and later followed along the street by a group of protesters shouting abuse, said the Metropolitan Police should take action.

She added that although she anticipated some criticism and abuse as an MP, she expected authorities to act when it “crossed the line”.

Ms Soubry, who has been repeatedly targeted, told Good Morning Britain: “It crossed the line in December, it was journalists who were being attacked.

“[Sky News’ political editor] Faisal Islam, who is male, was racially abused by these people, it’s the same group, all on video and the policy of the Metropolitan Police is to ignore it.”

Five supporters of the group have so far been arrested by police, during a protest that saw scuffles on Saturday and on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “At approximately 1.40pm on Monday, 7 January, a suspect was arrested on Parliament Square in relation to the Brexit protest.

“They were arrested for assault and have been taken to a central London police station.”

The protesters, who have grown increasingly vocal in recent weeks, appear to be led by Tommy Robinson supporter James Goddard.

Calling themselves the “Yellow Vests UK”, their demonstrations started in December when they blocked a series of bridges in central London.

The group has been returning to Westminster on an almost daily basis to heckle pro-Remain protesters, journalists and MPs outside Parliament.

Smoke bombs set off outside London's Downing Street by far-right 'yellow vest' protesters

They have also targeted government buildings, blocking the entrance to the Cabinet Office and shouting through the gates of Downing Street.

Over the festive period, the “yellow vests” protested inside LBC radio’s headquarters and Mr Goddard visited the “treacherous” Labour Party’s offices in central London.

Last month Mr Goddard filmed himself and others harassing Ms Soubry and calling her a “traitor”; he films many of his activities around parliament and attempts to crowd-fund using PayPal.

Sometimes clad in yellow vests, aping French protesters demonstrating against the economics of Emmanuel Macron’s government, his small group has used previous marches to call Theresa May “treasonous” while urging a no-deal Brexit.

On Saturday, “yellow vest” protesters took to the streets in several UK cities. Four people, including a 13-year-old girl, were arrested in London following clashes with police on Whitehall.

Mr Goddard filmed himself shouting: “If they want a war we’ll give them a war, let’s give them a f***ing war” in a live stream posted on Facebook.

“Yellow vest” protesters have included former supporters of far-right groups including the English Defence League (EDL), Britain First and anti-Islam Pegida UK.

Brexit protesters shout traitor and Hitler jibes at Anna Soubry as she walks down street

The band has also included family members of the three teenage boys killed by a drunk driver in Hayes, west London, last spring.

Mr Goddard attended a hearing at the Court of Appeal that was disrupted by protesters after judges announced a reduction in sentence for the boys’ killer, Jaynesh Chudasama. Protesters shouted abuse at lawyers and clerks in the court, calling them “scum” and “corrupt”.

Donald Trump supporter Mr Goddard has previously called Islam a “political ideology that advocates your death” and claimed terror attacks were being covered up by UK authorities.

Monday’s harassment led dozens of MPs to write to Met commissioner Cressida Dick expressing their “serious concerns” about the “deteriorating public order and security situation” outside parliament.

The letter comes as police investigate whether any criminal offence was committed during the abuse of Ms Soubry on Monday. Also on Monday, left-wing journalist Owen Jones posted a video of himself being followed and abused by the same group.

A cross-party group of at least 55 MPs signed the missive criticising a “lack of co-ordination” in the response from officers and appropriate authorities despite assurances that incidents before Christmas would be dealt with.

They wrote: “After months of peaceful and calm protests by groups representing a range of political views on Brexit, an ugly element of individuals with strong far right and extreme right connections – which your officers are well aware of – have increasingly engaged in intimidatory and potentially criminal acts targeting members of parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public.”

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has said he is “keeping a close eye” on protests and had raised MPs’ concerns with the Met. He said officers had been “made very well aware”.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, of the Met, said in a statement released mid-morning on Tuesday: “Police continue to assess if any crimes have been committed following a third-party report of a public order offence on Monday, 7 January, in the area of College Green.

“If a crime has been committed the matter will be fully investigated. There has been no arrest at this stage.

“An ongoing policing operation at the parliamentary estate around Brexit continues and we have an appropriate policing plan in place. Our role is to facilitate peaceful protest and balance the needs and rights of all those present, including protestors, MPs and members of the public.

“We will deal robustly with incidents of harassment and abuse against anyone where that harassment or abuse constitutes a criminal offence.

“Officers in the area have been briefed to intervene appropriately where they hear or see breaches of the law.”

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In a video posted to his Facebook page overnight Mr Goddard claimed that Ms Soubry “wasn’t verbally assaulted”.

Of the chants calling the pro-EU Broxtowe MP a “Nazi” and a “fascist”, he said: ”Why is it ok for [the left] to say it yet the moment we say it we’re the ones who are branded things and they’re going to investigate us ... ?”

Additional reporting by PA

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