Outrage after Met officer says swastikas 'need to be taken into context’

Police officers in between pro-Palestine protesters and counter-protesters (AFP via Getty Images)
Police officers in between pro-Palestine protesters and counter-protesters (AFP via Getty Images)

Outrage has been sparked by a video which appears to show a Metropolitan Police officer telling a woman swastikas “need to be taken into context” and may not necessarily be anti-Semitic.

In footage taken during a pro-Palestine march in London on Saturday, a woman can be seen telling an officer that a different officer had told her “that a swastika was not necessarily anti-Semitic or a disruption of public order”.

The man being spoken to starts responding “so I think the symbol in of itself-“ before he is cut off by the woman telling the people around them: “Please, for the love of God, film this.”

Other voices can be heard telling the officer: “It is anti-Semitic.”

He starts explaining the Public Order Act to the woman before she asks: “Could you just explain under what context a swastika is not disrupting public order?”

The officer replies: “I haven’t said anything about it – that it is or it isn’t – everything needs to be taken in context doesn’t it?”

She repeats: “Why is a swastika not immediately anti-Semitism? Why does it need context? This is what I’m confused about – this isn’t even about Israel.”

He says: “I don’t have in-depth knowledge of signs and symbols. I know the swastika was used by the Nazi Party during their inception and the period of them being in power in Germany in 1934, I’m aware of that.”

They argue for a few more seconds before the woman says again: “I’m confused – in what context is a swastika not anti-Semitic?”

The officer replies: “I suppose, to some, I don’t know how everybody would feel about that.”

They then had a conversation about whether the officer should go with her to find people who were allegedly holding signs displaying the swastika.

The Metropolitan Police stressed that the person with the swastika sign had already been arrested at the time of this conversation.

The force said in a statement: “We’re aware of an online clip from today’s protest in central London showing an interaction between an officer and a woman during which there is an exchange over concern around protestors displaying offensive banners, including swastikas.

Crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

“The online clip is a short excerpt of what was a 10-minute conversation with the officer. During the full conversation, the officer establishes that the person the woman was concerned about had already been arrested for a public order offence in relation to a placard.

“The officer then offered to arrange for other officers to attend and accompany the woman to identify any other persons she was concerned about amongst the protestors, but after turning to speak to his supervisor, she then unfortunately left.

“We take hate crime and public order offences very seriously and a number of people were arrested during today's protest for hate crimes, public order and terrorist offences. We are also gathering and assessing evidence with a view to making further arrests where we identify any other offences.

“If anyone is aware of any other evidence of people with offensive banners or material, please let us know via @MetCC on X (Twitter) or via our website:”

Campaign Against Antisemitism told the MailOnline the interaction was “absolutely gobsmacking”.

They said: “The very notion that a British police officer could imagine a context in which the Nazi swastika is an acceptable image to be displayed in public is distressing.”

The spokesperson went on to add that if Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley “agrees that the swastika is context-dependent, let him tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Britons who gave their lives to prevent that despicable symbol from ever being flown on the streets of London.”

Four people were arrested, including one man on suspicion of a terrorism-related offence, at the march in central London.

One was taken into custody on the Strand in relation to inviting support for a proscribed organisation while one person was arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and two others were arrested on suspicion of causing harassment.

More than 200,000 people took part in the 11th national march called for a ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 32,000 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry which does not differentiate between militant and civilian deaths.