Police in London have launched an investigation after footage emerged showing a Metropolitan Police officer hugging demonstrators and chanting “Free, free Palestine!” at a pro-Palestine demonstration.
Video footage posted online shows a police officer at a protest in London this weekend talking to a demonstrator holding a flower before embracing her.
100,000 people marched in the UK capital this weekend to protest Israeli airstrikes against Gaza. At least 212 people, including 61 children, have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza since violence started over a week ago. 12 people in Israel have died after rockets were fired into Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted, “We police hundreds of events and protests every year and officers must remain independent and impartial in carrying out their duties.
“The Directorate of Professional Standards has been informed and are investigating the full circumstances of this incident and to determine what further action is appropriate.
“While officers are encouraged to positively engage with those attending demonstrations, they know they are not to actively participate or adopt political positions.
“This is vital to ensuring the public have confidence in our officers.”
Metropolitan Police officers have also been criticised for their heavy handed approach at pro-Palestine demonstrations this weekend. Footage shows police in riot gear charging at protesters.
Black Protest Legal Support (BPLS), a group of legal observers, released a statement condemning the “extreme police violence and aggression towards Free Palestine protesters.”
BPLS says that “immense hostility and brutality” from the police occurred when when the crowd had largely dissipated and “a smaller number of Muslim and/or racialised protesters remained.”
“Police also started blading protesters,” the statement said – referring to the technique of using the rim of a riot shield as a weapon – “and wielding batons against those on the ground. Officers also punched, hit and kicked protesters. Our Legal Observers witnessed a small boy, aged ten or under, being hit in the face with a baton, and multiple other protesters sustaining head, facial, head and other injuries as a result of being beaten by police.” Several of those injured were children, the group said.
13 arrests were made at the demonstration – nine on suspicion of violent disorder and four on suspicion of breaching COVID regulations. The Metropolitan Police said nine of its officers were injured as missiles were thrown.
Superintendent Jo Edwards, in charge of the policing operation, said: “We once again saw police come under fire from missiles and several were injured as a result of this. It is totally unacceptable and I wish those officers a speedy recovery.
“Throughout the day, officers sought to engage with people who had gathered to demonstrate, and encourage them to disperse to help protect themselves and others during this public health crisis. Where this approach did not work and officers were met with hostility, they took enforcement action.”