By Justin Cohen
Politicians and community leaders have applauded a police edict barring a neo-Nazi rally scheduled for Saturday from taking place in Golders Green
Extremist groups were planning to protest in the country’s most populous Jewish area this Shabbat in an event that has provoked widespread revulsion from politicians and community leaders.
The static nature of the event meant the police were unable to ban the event but officers have now imposed conditions that will see the rally moved away from Golders Green to central London amid fears of disorder.
A police statement said: “After carefully considering the facts surrounding this protest and counter-protest activity, it is the assessment of the MPS that the presence of these groups in the same area at the same time is likely to result in serious disorder, serious disruption to the life of the community and intimidation of others.”
In a series of meetings with the home office and law enforcement authorities over recent weeks, a range of community groups had been pushing for the authorities to use their full powers to crack down on the protest. The Community Security Trust and the London Jewish Forum were among those welcoming today’s decision, with the latter’s Adrian Cohen said: “We are delighted that common sense has prevailed and that fringe group seeking to spread hate have been banned from demonstrating.”
More than 2,300 people had expressed support on Facebook for a counter-demonstration organised by grassroots group, Campaign against Antisemitism – which, pointing to the police statement, insisted it was this prospect that led to the move.
Chairman Gideon Falter, who had also been in contact with police, said: “Today’s decision by the Metropolitan Police Service is a victory for British values and we applaud their firm defence of our community. This vindicates our policy of confronting anti-Semitism wherever it rears its head.
“We believe that ‘never again’ is a call to action from our history, which is why we called thousands of Jews and non-Jews to stand together against this disgrace in dignified defiance, unity and pride.”
Welcoming the police decision, the CST said: “The neo-Nazis sought to protest in Golders Green, as they have previously done in Stamford Hill, and as they plan to in other areas with notable Jewish communities. We will not sit idly by when anti-Semitic neo-Nazis, chose to spend their Saturday afternoons, agitating against Jews in various areas of north London.”
A concerted response from across the community had also seen London Jewish Forum, along with the Board of Deputies and Hope Not Hate, launch a major campaign Golders Green Together to highlight the diversity of Golders Green. Local business and residents of all faiths came together to back the initiative.
Board President Jonathan Arkush added: “The sad little gathering of Nazi admirers was rejected by Golders Green together and has now been forced out of Golders Green altogether. Our community and many others stood together in unity, pride and strength and we have won. Our Shabbat will be one of Shalom, just as it always should be.”
It was a message echoed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Expressing gratitude for the move, he said: “I can think of no better way to respond to the politics of scapegoating and division than by displaying solidarity, togetherness and unity. To those who peddle an ideology of hatred and intolerance we say: We will not be cowed or intimidated, nor will we stoop to an exchange of insults.
“People from all walks of life make up the beautiful tapestry that is Great Britain. We must challenge anything that seeks to disturb our shared values by building deeper relationships across neighbourhoods and communities.”
Police ruled that the rally must now take place at Richmond terrace in Whitehall for an hour from 1pm. A statement said they were attempting to “strike a balance between the right to peaceful assembly and protest and our duty to prevent crime and disorder and protect the communities”.
The fightback against the rally reached Westminster with dozens of MPs had signed a motion, initiated by Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, calling for the Home Secretary to consider what actions could be taken to “isolate the politics of hate” and MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer urged a crack down during prime minister’s questions.
Welcoming the police’s announcement, he said: “Golders Green was obviously chosen as the original location as the protestors planned to incite racial hatred. We do have freedom of speech in this country but the message is clear – anti-Semitism has no place on our streets.” A motion was also tabled at the London Assembly by Andrew Dismore welcoming the move and calling for the strongest possible conditions to be placed on the central London assembly.
Despite today’s developments, Golders Green Together vowed to continue its plan to decorate Golders Green gold and green on Friday while CST said it would keep working with Barnet Council and local police to ensure “a strong policing and security presence in Golders Green over 3, 4 and 5 July… the need for stringent security remains”.