Three arrested after Jewish rep openly taunted at Newham Council meeting

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Three arrested after Jewish rep openly taunted at Newham Council meeting

Metropolitan Police confirm arrests on suspicion of committing a racially or religiously motivated offence

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Cllr Joshua Garfield
Cllr Joshua Garfield

Three people have been arrested on suspicion of committing a racially/religiously motivated offence after a Jewish Labour councillor was heckled and hissed at during a meeting of Newham Council.

The Metropolitan Police also confirmed to Jewish News they were treating the abuse directed at councillor Joshua Garfield last Thursday evening as a hate crime.

The three people arrested on suspicion of targeting Garfield at the full meeting of Newham Council remained in custody on Saturday.

Detective Superintendent Dion Brown, based in Newham, confirmed: “We are aware of the incident that took place at a Newham Council meeting on Thursday, 29 February.

“We are treating this incident as a hate crime and have already made contact with the victim.

“Fast-paced enquiries are underway. Any witnesses, or anyone with any information about this incident, is asked to call police on 101, quoting CAD 2017/01Mar.”

On Friday, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan condemned what he said was “appalling behaviour” directed at Garfield, who represents the Stratford war on the East London council, and who recently stood down from a role in the cabinet.

The mayor added:”There is no place in our city for antisemitism or hate speech of any kind.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly and Communities Secretary Michael Gove also both expressed disgust at the antisemitic abuse directed at the councillor.

Gove posted on X/Twitter writing:”This is disgusting. As minister responsible for local government I want to express my solidarity with Councillor Joshua Garfield. Antisemitism is a poison we must all confront.”

Cleverly meanwhile recalled Garfield standing against his in the Braintree seat at the general election.

He tweeted:”Joshua stood against me in the General Election. We debated and we disagreed, but always with good grace.

“He is right to stand strong against attempts to bully him and others from the public space. I am determined to protect his right to represent and speak for his community.”

Jewish News understands that Metropolitan Police officers interviewed Garfield on Friday, after Newham Council chiefs had reported the appalling events of the previous evening to them.

The meeting, which was broadcast live by the council, was subsequently adjourned as a result of the abuse dished out to Garfield.

He bravely attempted to challenge those responsible saying:””If members of the gallery want to hiss me they may want to speak to my face about the issues they have.

“Chair, I won’t accept it. ”On Friday home secretary James Cleverly tweeted:”Joshua stood against me in the General Election. We debated and we disagreed, but always with good grace.

“He is right to stand strong against attempts to bully him and others from the public space. I am determined to protect his right to represent and speak for his community.”

Newham Labour Group later issued a message of support for Garfield tweeting:”Democracy is the beating heart of our strong, inclusive & diverse Newham.

“We all have a role to play as elected representatives, citizens & voters to protect & preserve it. For our Jewish councillor Joshua Garfield to be hissed at as he got up to speak is antisemitic hate.”

Garfield, a Jewish Labour Movement official, told the meeting when it restarted after the public gallery was cleared:”Robust debate is something I am my colleagues in Labour always welcome. But I’ve spent four years as the only Jewish member of this council. Eighteen months as the only Jewish member of cabinet.

“It will take a lot more to bully me out of public life.”

In a statement Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said:”At our Council meeting last night at Stratford Town Hall, I met with councillors to approve our financial plans for the coming year ahead.

“One of my councillors was the target of antisemitic abuse, through the use of a dehumanising trope when some people in the public gallery hissed like a snake as he got up to walk to the microphone so he could speak freely in our Budget debate.

“Across the ages, tropes like the use of snakes have been used to fuel stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination against Jewish people. The Nazi’s commonly used it in the run up to and during the second world war; and it remains a frequently used trope against Jewish people in these troubling times.

“We will do all that we can to challenge antisemitism and hate in all of its forms here in Newham and won’t shy away from tackling it head on.

“That’s why this morning I requested that the Chief Executive of Newham Council asks the police to investigate the events that took place at our Full Council last night; and have asked for a review of the safety measures in place for our councillors as they undertake their elected roles.

“As the police investigation continues, we will continue to support local councillors who facing hateful and intimidatory abuse Newham so that they are safeguarded and protected.”

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