LONDON — A threatened neo-Nazi rally in the heart of Jewish north London has been moved by police to a location in the center of the city and away from the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Golders Green.
The far-right organizers of the rally, due to take place on Shabbat, July 4, had planned their protest against the “Jewification” of Golders Green.
But after weeks of closed-door discussions with the Metropolitan Police, Jewish community leaders and Mike Penning, the Home Office minister responsible for policing and crime, the organizers were forced on Tuesday to agree to move the rally. It will now take place in Richmond Terrace, Whitehall. Protesters will be restricted to a one-hour, static assembly, and will then be moved on.
Nearly 60 cross-party MPs signed an early day motion in parliament condemning the prospective rally and urging it to be moved away from Golders Green. English law does not allow the banning of a static demonstration, only marches.
“Police have a range of powers to deal with static demonstrations — including imposing restrictions on where they can be held, the length of time they can last and the number of people who can take part,” Penning told the Times of Israel.
“The Home Secretary has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to urge him to use these powers and ensure that anyone who commits a criminal offense or demonstrates anti-Semitic hostility faces the full force of the law,” said Penning.
On Monday, Joshua Bonehill, 22, who had been tweeting endorsement of the rally, appeared in Westminster Magistrates Court on charges of inciting racial hatred. He has been detained in custody pending his next appearance in court. Bonehill, who lives in Yeovil, Somerset, had already been banned by police from visiting London.
Bonehill’s encouragement included urging activists to burn Israeli flags and copies of the Talmud. He wrote: “Activists are welcome to bring Israeli flags on July 4 as we will be destroying them in an act of opposition to Israel. …There will also be a private ceremony held before the demonstration at an undisclosed and private location where copies of the Talmud books will be burnt in recognition of its racist anti-white teachings.”
Bonehill claimed to be the organizer of a previous anti-Jewish rally held in the strictly Orthodox neighborhood of Stamford Hill in April. It largely went unnoticed, attracting only 30 people, primarily because the Jewish residents refused to mount a counter-demonstration in the area on Shabbat.
But when it became evident that the far-right intended to demonstrate in Golders Green on a July Shabbat, mainstream Jewish groups made it clear that — with rabbinic advice and backing — they would fiercely oppose this rally.
A new organization called the Campaign Against Antisemitism announced its intention of being the main counter-demonstrator, although senior Jewish communal activists also said they would attend. Additionally, a far-left group, Jewdas, which is anti-Zionist, was planning to demonstrate against the neo-Nazis.
More controversially, anti-Zionist former MP George Galloway, who is now running for mayor of London, announced his intention of demonstrating against the neo-Nazis, too.
The Community Security Trust, or CST, welcomed the decision to relocate the rally. In a statement the CST said the move would “allow Jewish residents of Golders Green and the surrounding area to observe their Shabbat with integrity and dignity; and sends a strong message of support for British Jews at a time when fears of anti-Semitism remain high.”
‘We will not sit idly by when anti-Semitic neo-Nazis choose to spend their Saturday afternoons agitating against Jews in various areas of North London’
“We will not sit idly by when anti-Semitic neo-Nazis choose to spend their Saturday afternoons agitating against Jews in various areas of North London,” said CST, which monitors anti-Semitism in Britain.
The CST thanked a number of politicians including the MP for Golders Green, Mike Freer and the London Assembly Member, Andrew Dismore, for having done “everything in their respective power to assist the Jewish community and help stop neo-Nazis demonstrating in Golders Green.”
In the meantime the official, pre-rally response, “Golders Green Together,” is still due to take place on Friday, July 3. This campaign has been led by the anti-racist organization Hope Not Hate, the London Jewish Forum and the Board of Deputies. In the last few weeks the three groups have enlisted the support of local Christians and Muslims, published a “good news” communal newssheet, and plan to stage their own demonstration on Friday morning, draping the neighborhood in gold and green flags.
Taking credit for the move on Tuesday, the Campaign Against Antisemitism claimed it had moved due to the prospect of “a huge presence of protesters who were due to attend… to coincide with the Nazi activity.
“The CAA had gathered support from thousands within and beyond the Jewish community. At the same time, CAA’s close cooperation and liaison with the police and government has helped ensure that the rally would be limited under public order law, effectively crippling it,” said CAA chair Gideon Falter.
Falter said that the Metropolitan Police had confirmed “that the prospect of a counter-demonstration influenced their decision to move and restrict the racist assembly.” Police said they believed that “the assembly may result in serious public disorder,” and that “the purpose of the persons organizing the assembly is the intimidation of others, with a view to compelling them not to act as they have a right to do.”
“This neo-Nazi demonstration was an attempt to intimidate the largest Jewish community in the UK on the Jewish Sabbath at the heart of Golders Green, next to the very memorial to those who lost their lives fighting Nazis. 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,” said Falter.
Falter called the decision by the Metropolitan Police Service “a victory for British values and for our policy of confronting anti-Semitism wherever it rears its head. Anti-Semitism is a societal disease and zero tolerance law enforcement and education are fundamental parts of the cure.”
There is expected to be a high police and CST presence in Golders Green throughout this weekend, not least to advise those who may not be aware of the rally’s re-location.