Anti-Semitic and far-right groups are planning a major demonstration “against Jewish privilege” in Golders Green – the heartland of the community – on the first Shabbat in July, writes Jenni Frazer.
Police told Jewish News this week that they are powerless, legally, to stop a static demonstration. It is understood the planned rally is due to be held at or near Golders Green station on 4 July, and anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi websites have been buzzing for months with information about the event.
Among those thought to be involved in organising the rally – which follows a similar, though unsuccessful event in Stamford Hill in April – is right-wing group New Dawn.
The Stamford Hill demonstration, described by the Community Security Trust as “quite pathetic and largely ignored”, was attended by less than 30 people who were held by police away from the Jewish community.
But Mark Gardner of the CST acknowledged this week that such an outcome “cannot be guaranteed in Golders Green”. He said that the CST, which was “fully aware of this explicitly anti-Semitic demonstration,” was in discussions with both police and government about the next steps. He said: “We sincerely hope that our Jewish community will not be cowed by this neo-Nazi intimidation”.
Adrian Cohen, of the London Jewish Forum, said the forum deplored “the vicious anti-Semitic message of the proposed neo-Nazi rally. We, along with other major Jewish organisations, have asked Home Secretary Theresa May to ban the rally. If it goes ahead we will support those who wish to counter-demonstrate in support of the local community, and the relevant authorities in ensuring that peace and security is maintained in the area.”
Andrew Dismore, London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary, calling for a ban.
Dismore said: “This is clearly a highly provocative scheme on the part of the far-right to insult and incite hatred against the Jewish community.“ “This event is designed to play on those fears and the risk of violence against Jewish businesses and residents is clearly present. That is why I have written to demand that the demonstration be banned and that those who plan to attend it are prevented from using TfL public transport to get to Golders Green to ensure any ban is effective.”
Local MP Mike Freer told Jewish News: “I have called on the Home Office to step in and ban this demonstration. This rally is not about free speech but a deliberate attempt to promote tension and anti-Semitism.”
A spokesman for anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate said it was strongly opposed to the rally going ahead but wanted the community to be both prepared and informed. What is additionally troubling community leaders is the possibility of secular Jewish groups staging a counter-protest – and any resulting violence.
Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher, head of policing in Barnet, said: “Officers will continue to work closely with the local community to make sure we fully understand their concerns and to brief them on the policing operation as it develops”. He said officers were speaking to the organisers of the rally “to understand what their plans are”.