MP for Hendon and CFI Officer, Dr Matthew Offord, wrote today to the Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan police to raise his concerns over reports that Hezbollah flags will be allowed to fly at the forthcoming Al-Quds Day rally.
Dr Offord first raised this issue with the Metropolitan Police in September 2015, after witnessing the flag of the proscribed terrorist organisation being flown at a counter-demonstration over the visit of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to Downing Street.
In his letter, Matthew said: “I am concerned to learn of the forthcoming Al-Quds Day rally, to be held in London. The display of Hezbollah, Hamas and Daesh flags causes great distress to many of my constituents and the population as a whole and, in my opinion, is contrary to the Terrorism Act. I will certainly be raising this again with the Metropolitan Police and I hope for a positive response”.
The organisers of the annual anti-Israel Al-Quds Day rally, to be held in London on Sunday 3rd July, have said that they will not be warning protesters against waving Hezbollah or Hamas flags – as they do not believe it is illegal.
The annual Al-Quds Day march, organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, has taken place in London for at least 10 years. Posters at previous marches have displayed signs calling for the destruction of Israel and marchers have carried flags of Hezbollah, whose military wing is blacklisted by the EU as a terrorist organisation.
A counter-protest is being organised to take place on the same day as the Al-Quds rally, by Sussex Friends of Israel, the Zionist Federation and the Israel Advocacy Movement, entitled “It’s Time To Stop The Hate: Stand With Israel”. This will take place from 15:00 until 17:00 outside the US Embassy.
Section 13 of the Terrorism Act (2000) states that people who ‘wear clothing or carry or display articles in public in such a way or in such circumstances as arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of the proscribed organisation’ are guilty of a criminal offence. Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation was proscribed in March 2001 and in 2008 the proscription was extended to Hezbollah’s Military apparatus including the Jihad Council.
Home Secretary Theresa May previously made it clear that new guidance on hate crime has been issued to all police forces which makes specific mention of anti-Semitism and confirmed that the flying of ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas flags is a criminal offence.
Following a lack of action by the Metropolitan Police, in October, Matthew raised the issue further in the House of Commons, asking the Leader of the Commons if a Minister would come to the House to explain why the police did not think it necessary to take legal action.
Following the Hendon MP’s continued efforts, two Hezbollah flag-waving protesters were arrested in October.