A man has reportedly been arrested in London for allegedly criticizing the displaying of Palestinian flags in his local main street.
Footage of the arrest circulated on social media on Tuesday, purporting to show a middle-aged male being escorted from his home by several police officers, one of whom could be heard explaining that the man was being detained because of comments made about foreign nationals.
It is understood that the man had posted a video on Facebook earlier this month to express his dissatisfaction with the number of Palestinian flags that had been displayed on lamposts and businesses in his local main street of Bethnal Green Road in East London.
Posting this video of himself criticizing migrants in his neighborhood for putting Palestine flags everywhere got this man arrested.— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) November 1, 2023
During the Facebook video, he highlighted the number of Palestinian flags on show in the area, and repeatedly said, “This is what we’re dealing with in Bethnal Green.”
Toward the end of the video, he added: “They let them into the country, and this is the shite they come up with.”
Explaining why he was being detained, a police officer told the man: “On Oct. 17, in Bethnal Green Road, you were witnessed as saying: ‘Why are they over here, etc. We let them into our country, etc.'”
His wife, who was present at the time of his arrest, explained that she was a Stage 4 cancer patient and needed her husband on hand to administer her medication. She expressed her incredulity that her husband was being arrested for comments made on Facebook criticizing those in support of Hamas.
“I’m a Stage 4 cancer patient, and I need him here. You’re making a scene because he said something about Hamas, a terrorist organization!” she told officers.
“We have freedom of speech. If we want to be against Palestine, we will be,” an associate of the arrested man could be heard saying in the video recording his arrest. “If that’s a problem, it’s your problem,” he added.
“He’s getting arrested because he mentioned Hamas on Facebook! You can’t have an opinion in this country,” the arrested man’s wife said as he was led away to a nearby police van.
“What is wrong with you? My wife has Stage 4 cancer, and because I have an opinion, you guys are taking me to the police station! This is a political decision. You are a disgrace!” the man told officers.
Several social media users responding to the incident questioned the basis on which the man was being detained, and for what offense.
“Can you please explain why a man was arrested for venting his disgust on Bethnal Green High Street? We are left scratching our heads as to how this is possible,” one user asked the Metropolitan Police.
“I’m not quite sure of the allegation here, or how the video beneath (in which the arrested man is simply criticizing Palestinian flags displayed in Bethnal Green) constitutes a crime. Is it that he alluded to immigrants, or is it considered a ‘harmful online video,’ or ‘hate’?” asked Adrian Hilton, a lecturer in Political Philosophy and Education at the University of Surrey.
“I am frankly shocked that this Bethnal Green resident has been arrested for posting a video on Facebook of his criticism of all the unwelcoming flags on the Bethnal Green Road… Arrested?! This is not the East London I once loved. Shame on the Police!” commented Manick Govinda, a teacher at London Metropolitan University.
Later on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police commented on the incident.
“This video shows the arrest of a man on suspicion of a racially aggravated Section 5 public order offence,” the force said in a post on social media.
“The arrested man was taken to an east London police station where he remains at this time.
“We take all allegations of hate crime incredibly seriously. Where offences have taken place, our officers are attending, supporting victims and making arrests – and we will continue to do so,” it added
Last week, the Palestinian flags erected by members of the public in Tower Hamlets were removed after several complaints were made to police.
“There are some situations where the presence of a flag or banner or the use of specific words or phrases could be seen as intimidation,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.
One Labour Party councilor, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told the Evening Standard newspaper, “If I was from certain communities I might not feel safe.”