Sir Mark Rowley
Metropolitan Police Commissioner
New Scotland Yard,
17 October 2022
Unprovoked and Islamophobic violence and attacks by anti-Iran protestors on members of the public and the Islamic Centre of England on 25 September 2022
We write regarding the racist, unprovoked, and organised attacks by anti-Iran protesters on 25 September 2022.
The protests were organised outside the Iranian embassy as a static vigil until 6pm. The protestors started attacking the police officers protecting the embassy leading to a number of officers being injured. The police had to bring in officers in riot gear. This seemed to be a prelude and an excuse to vent their Islamophobic sentiments by launching physical attacks against Muslims and Muslim places of worship.
Despite this violence, the protestors were not prevented from marching towards Marble Arch where they came upon the annual peaceful Arbaeen procession. We have been informed, and seen footage that the police did very little to protect the marchers from the violence of the protestors. Anti-Iranian protestors were allowed by the police to walk from Hyde Park and through the procession near Marble Arch.
There they started physically attacking the participants in the procession using bottles, sticks, masonry, and other weaponry, leading to numerous injuries of innocent members of the public who were attending the procession. We have received reports that during the procession several people attending the Arbaeen procession were assaulted and injured. This included an elderly man and several women had their hijabs (headscarves) pulled off. They were also threatened and intimidated. It was clear that the violence was motivated by religious hatred.
The organisers of the annual Islamic Arbaeen procession (a non-political event attended predominantly by Muslims from the Indian subcontinent) were told by the Met Police that, as it is a peaceful event, police presence would not be necessary. The police informed the head of the Arbaeen procession the anti-Iran protestors would pass through without interference as the police would be escorting them. Yet, they were fully aware an anti-Iranian demonstration at the Iranian Embassy was taking place on the same day and, given their history of violent attacks, intimidation and harassment of Muslims and Muslim places of worship, it would be inevitable the peaceful participants at the Islamic Arbaeen event would come under attack. Given subsequent violent events, this was clearly misinformation and an absolute failure in communication by the Met police. The Met Police failed to undertake an adequate risk assessment which allowed protestors with a history of violence to come into contact with innocent members of the public. Given the events that unfolded, it is manifestly apparent that the Met Police should have updated their risk assessment of the Arbaeen procession which would have afforded the necessary protection to innocent participants and members of the public. Further, had they done a proper risk assessment beforehand, they would have understood the Islamophobic nature of the violent protestors, and taken appropriate action to stop religion-based hate crimes taking place on the streets of London.
Incredulously, the anti-Iran protestors were then permitted to continue their march with a police escort to proceed from the Iranian Embassy on to Marble Arch (after attacking and injuring police and peaceful Arbaeen participants) and then march onwards approximately 3km to the Islamic Centre of England (ICE) in Maida Vale where the police made little or no effort to prevent the protesters from hurling bottles, bricks and other missiles at this place of worship. Several people in the grounds of the ICE were injured with two members of staff having to receive hospital treatment for serious injuries. Windows of the building and cars were smashed with glass dangerously scattered, and one of the protestors was allowed to scale the building and plant a flag on the dome. It has been reported to us there was a strong smell of alcohol on the walls and grounds of the building, which clearly indicates bottles of alcohol were hurled by protestors. This is another indication the violence of the anti-Iran protestors was motivated by religious hate.
The Islamic Centre of England is not a political entity where violent protest and demonstrations should be allowed to result in attacks and injuries on innocent members of the public. It is a mosque and place of worship. Such wanton and deliberate acts of vandalism constitute a hate crime. Yet, the police did nothing to prevent this. The Met Police failed to recognise the attack on the Islamic Centre of England was a hate crime, which resulted in inadequate protection of the building and its premises. This should not be tolerated for any community establishment, let alone a religious building and place of worship attended by innocent members of the public.
The police presence was woefully inadequate, and no further reinforcements were sent despite calls from the ICE. The police allowed hundreds of protestors to congregate on the pavement directly outside the premises and by the main entrance, all the while hurling both abuse and missiles. There is only one main access in and out of the premises but neither staff nor members of the public could leave until 12am.
The police were unable to protect themselves, let alone innocent members of the general public. Given the levels of violence already committed, and the fact several police officers were injured, the police should never have allowed the anti-Iranian protestors to march towards the Islamic Centre of England. The Met police should have made provision for dealing with potential violence from the anti-Iran protestors by securely cordoning off an area with adequate double barriers to physically control the anti-Iran protestors away from the Arbaeen event and innocent participants in order to prevent their attacks and also mobilise sufficient numbers of police to deal with the subsequent level of violence that followed at the Islamic Centre of England. This should have been part of the Met Police risk assessment given the historic and repeated patterns of violence carried out by anti-Iran protestors.
It was also strange to see the Metropolitan police release a communique in which they discussed the violence outside the embassy and sought the identity of 13 individuals who had injured police officers. There was no mention of the extreme violence aimed at members of the public or religious organisations, no discussion about the hate-based nature of those crimes or any attempt at seeking out those individuals who had perpetrated them. This only reinforces the view that the safety of the public, in particular the Muslim community, is not important to the police.
The Metropolitan police should be well aware that it was highly likely the centre and civilians would come under attack on this occasion. We therefore request you engage with us and the community to create an adequate risk assessment plan so that the community’s faith in the police can be restored. We would like to know:
- What risk assessments have been done and what actions will be done as a result to make sure this does not happen again?
- What has been done to identify the perpetrators of this violence, in particular those who physically assaulted others?
- What has been done to understand that the violence was in fact hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim religious hate?
Islamic Human Rights Commission
cc: Mayor Sadiq Khan