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Swastikas must ‘be taken into context,’ London police officer says

The Metropolitan Police claimed that the clip was "a short excerpt of what was a 10-minute conversation."

Metropolitan police officers in London. Credit: Watcharisma/Shutterstock.
Metropolitan police officers in London. Credit: Watcharisma/Shutterstock.

On Dec. 5, presidents of elite U.S. universities testified before a House committee that it depended on context whether calling for genocide of Jews violated their school policies. On Saturday, video circulated of a London police officer saying that swastikas aren’t necessarily antisemitic and must “be taken into context.”

“If you’re holding a sign with a swastika at an anti-Israel march—this is blatantly antisemitic,” wrote Emily Schrader, a writer and lecturer who often addresses Jew-hatred. “Come on Met Police … this is pathetic.”

A video that spread widely on social media shows a woman talking to London police officers about a sign with a swastika at an anti-Israel rally in the capital city. An officer told her “that a swastika was not necessarily antisemitic or a disruption of public order,” the woman tells another cop. “That doesn’t seem right to me.”

The officer begins, “so I think the symbol in itself,” later adding that he lacks “in-depth knowledge of signs and symbols.”

The Metropolitan Police responded to Schrader. “This video clip is a short excerpt of what was a 10-minute conversation with an officer,” it stated. “During the full conversation, the officer establishes that the person the woman was concerned about had already been arrested for a public order offense in relation to a placard.”

“The officer then offered to arrange for other officers to attend and accompany the woman to identify any other persons she was concerned about amongst the protestors,” the Met Police added, “but after turning to speak to his supervisor, she had unfortunately left.”

“Even if the person was already arrested, multiple officers said whether or not it’s illegal ‘depends on context’ and refused to assist her claiming he ‘can’t leave his post,'” Schrader replied. “If there’s a 10-minute exchange, by all means share it.”

On Monday, Schrader added that she spoke to the woman involved in addition to other witnesses.

“I can confirm the Met Police’s claim is not factual and that even in the video shared, the officer repeatedly refuses to state a swastika is illegal at an anti-Israel march and refuses to ‘leave his post’ after another officer directed the woman to him,” Schrader wrote. “I again urge them to release the ’10 minute exchange’ they claim took place.”

“The swastika was used to rouse and galvanize Nazi followers during the Holocaust; it terrified both the Nazis’ victims and the innocent bystanders of the world,” Yad Vashem wrote in response to Schrader’s post. “The swastika is a symbol of evil, cruelty and death.”

“Holding swastikas up on signs with slogans directed against Jews is antisemitic. Branding and taunting Jews with the symbol of those who mass-murdered Jews is vile hatred. Period,” wrote the Combat Antisemitism Movement. “But according to one Metropolitan Police officer in London, it apparently ‘depends on context.’”

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