Home Secretary Suella Braverman is to urge Scotland Yard chief Sir Mark Rowley to use the “full force of the law” after video emerged of a pro-Palestinian protester chanting “jihad”.
She will hold talks with the Metropolitan Police commissioner on Monday after officers said no offences were identified in the footage from the demonstration in central London over the weekend.
The Home Secretary will make clear the police should “crack down on anyone breaking the law” amid concern over footage from a demonstration by the Hizb ut-Tahrir fundamentalist group, which was separate to the main rally.
The Met has pointed out that jihad has “a number of meanings”, and said that specialist counter-terrorism officers had not identified any offences arising from the specific clip from Saturday.
Instead, officers spoke to the man to “discourage any repeat of similar chanting”.
But Home Office minister Robert Jenrick said chanting the word on the streets of the capital is “inciting terrorist violence”.
Ms Braverman will use her scheduled meeting to discuss protests surrounding the Israel-Gaza conflict to ask Sir Mark for “an explanation over the response to incidents” on Saturday.
A source close to the Home Secretary added: “There can be no place for incitement to hatred or violence on Britain’s streets and, as the Home Secretary has made clear, the police are urged to crack down on anyone breaking the law.”
Her Cabinet colleague, Mark Harper, said that the footage from the weekend was “disturbing”.
The Transport Secretary told Times Radio: “The Home Secretary will make it clear that the Government thinks the full force of the law should be used.
“The police are operationally independent, which I think is appropriate, and they will have to explain the reasons for the decisions they have taken.”
Sir Mark co-authored a report in 2021 before he was the Met commissioner warning that there was a “gaping chasm” in legislation that allows some extremists to operate with “impunity”.
He said at the time he was “shocked and horrified by the ghastliness and volume of hateful extremist materials and behaviour which is lawful in Britain”.
Sir Keir Starmer urged ministers to look at addressing “gaps in the law” as he warned of a “huge increase” in hate crimes in recent weeks.
Visiting the Port Talbot steelworks, the Labour leader told broadcasters: “Obviously the police are independent operationally so these are decisions for them.
“But I think there have already been identified some gaps in the law in a previous review under this Government and I think the Government needs to look at whether there are gaps in the law that need to be addressed as well.
CST is proud to be securing today’s solidarity rally alongside the police. Please make sure you continue to cooperate fully with security personnel. Anything suspicious in the vicinity should be reported to CST or police. As ever, please make sure to thank our amazing volunteers… pic.twitter.com/tasYGJtSmF
— CST (@CST_UK) October 22, 2023
A video posted on social media shows a man speaking into a microphone on Saturday in front of a banner reading “Muslim Armies! Rescue the People of Palestine”.
The main speaker asks: “What is the solution to liberate people from the concentration camp called Palestine?”
A man standing to the side of the speaker, but neither on a platform nor speaking into the microphone, can then be heard chanting words including “jihad”, as can some others attending the protest.
Other clips posted on social media from the same protest show demonstrators using the microphone to speak about a “solution” of “jjhad”.
The word can mean struggle or effort, but it has also been taken to refer to holy war.
The Met said that specialist Crown Prosecution Service lawyers had agreed no offence could be identified in the footage from the Hizb ut-Tahrir protest.
“The word has a number of meanings but we know the public will most commonly associate it with terrorism,” the force said in a statement.
“However, recognising the way language like this will be interpreted by the public and the divisive impact it will have, officers identified the man involved and spoke to him to discourage any repeat of similar chanting.”
Jewish safety organisation the Community Security Trust criticised the Met, saying that “in trying to communicate complex and nuanced legal issues” on social media “they gave the impression of legitimising obnoxious and hateful behaviour that may or may not be criminal but nevertheless causes profound concern to British Jews and many other people”.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The vast majority of yesterday’s protests were peaceful, but I’m aware of some disturbing and offensive comments.
“London has a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime. If anyone has broken the law, strong action will be taken against them.”
An investigation was also under way after footage showed a Tube driver leading a chant of “free Palestine” on the London Underground.
Mr Harper said that the footage will have been “very concerning, particularly to people in the Jewish community”.
He told Sky News: “I saw that clip and on the face of it, it was disturbing, but I know the British Transport Police and Transport for London are investigating that.
“And because they are investigating that it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on an ongoing police investigation but they took that very seriously and I thank them at the weekend for their vigilance on that matter.”