Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said she expects the police to “use the full force of the law” against displays of support for Hamas after videos emerged of people appearing to celebrate the attack on Israel.
Metropolitan Police patrols have been increased in London after the force was urged to intervene by immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who shared a video posted on social media by Countdown presenter Rachel Riley after Hamas launched its biggest attack in years on Israel.
Riley posted on X on Saturday saying she passed two cars in west London driving with Palestinian flags flying from each window, “bouncing up and down in their cars” and “seemingly celebrating like they were having a party”.
She later posted a video which showed people waving Palestinian flags, beeping car horns and clapping in Acton.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday morning, saying: “Whenever Israel is attacked, Islamists and other racists use Israeli defensive measures as a pretext to stir up hatred against British Jews.
“Yesterday I spoke with @CST_UK (Community Security Trust) to ensure the Government is doing everything necessary for the protection of our Jewish communities.
“There must be zero tolerance for antisemitism or glorification of terrorism on the streets of Britain.
“I expect the police to use the full force of the law against displays of support for Hamas, other proscribed terrorist groups or attempts to intimidate British Jews.”
The Met Police said on Sunday afternoon no arrests had been made but officers attended “a small number of low-level public order incidents in different parts of London”.
The force added that a number of protests have been planned, including a Stop The War protest due to be held on Monday evening at the Israeli Embassy, and officers will be there “primarily to ensure protests pass off peacefully” but will make arrests if they suspect a criminal offence has been committed.
Riley’s post on the social media site said: “Acton, half an hour ago. Popped into a cafe for some baklava with the kids and our Ukrainian friends.
“People have been brutally murdered, kidnapped and there are people in London dancing.
“Just had a reassuring call with the police, if anyone is scared, please call them.”
She added on the social media site: “Most people understand this is an abomination. No-one should cheer war and death.”
Speaking at an event at the Labour Party Conference, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan condemned the Hamas attacks and said it was important they did not “spill over” into increased hate crime in London.
He said: “Hamas is a proscribed organisation. What they have done in the last 24 hours in Israel, causing the death and injury of hundreds, is unacceptable and it’s got to be condemned and I do condemn that.
“We’ve also got to recognise the history of disturbances in the Middle East, it often spills over into an increase in hate crime in our city.
“I’ve been in regular contact with the police over the last 24 hours, and communities in London who are feeling scared and vulnerable and frightened, and there are increased officers present across London to reassure communities.”
Asked whether he condemned Londoners waving flags in support of Hamas, he added: “Waving the flag of Hamas is against the law. Hamas is proscribed and the police are making sure that they enforce the law.
“There’s obviously a distinction with the right to freedom of protest and so forth, but nobody likes to see people scared as a consequence of the actions of others.”
Prominent barrister Charlotte Proudman also posted a video of a car with Palestinian flags sounding its horn.
She wrote: “Celebrating the murders and kidnapping of Israelis is quite possibly the most heinous act of public hate I have seen on the streets of London.”
Mr Jenrick shared Riley’s post on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, and said: “These disgusting people are glorifying the terrorist activities of Hamas, a proscribed organisation.
“There is no place for this in the UK.
“I trust @metpoliceuk will be taking this seriously.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Valentine, in charge of policing London on Sunday, said: “We are aware that this conflict has a far-reaching impact on communities around the world, and we extend our full support to those affected in London.
“We are listening and working with communities and partners to ensure people feel safe and protected. We ask that members of the public report anything concerning, such as threatening behaviour.
“We are aware that a number of demonstrations and protests are planned. We have spoken to the organisers and we expect these will pass off peacefully. However, we will take a zero tolerance approach to any activity which crosses the lines into criminality.”
The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats, said it has been in discussion with the Met Police and Government since Saturday morning to ensure the “appropriate levels of security and policing are in place in Jewish community areas”.
Dave Rich, director of policy at CST, said: “Experience tells us that as conflicts in Israel and Gaza escalate, we will see a spike in antisemitic hate crimes in Britain.
“Our advice to the Jewish community is to report any examples of antisemitism or suspicious behaviour around Jewish buildings to the police immediately and then to CST.”
He added: “During the last big conflict between Israel and Gaza in May 2021, one of the things that caused the most anger and fear in Jewish communities was car convoys waving flags.
“We hope what happened on Saturday night isn’t an indication that we’re going to see the same thing again as that would be extremely damaging to community relations.
“We kind of accept it as normal that when there’s conflict, we see a rise in antisemitism in Britain – we shouldn’t accept it as normal, it should never be acceptable.”
A group called the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has called for people to attend an “emergency” demonstration on Monday outside the Israeli embassy.