MPs urge police to act over Brexit protesters

LONDON: Activists hold up placards from the Leave Means Leave Pro-Brexit campaign group outside the Houses of Parliament. — AFP

LONDON: Dozens of British MPs have written to London’s police chief to warn about a “deteriorating public order and security situation” around parliament, after Brexit supporters assailed pro-EU figures there on Monday. A cross-party group of 55 lawmakers sent the letter to the Metropolitan Police commissioner after prominent Remain supporting MP Anna Soubry was called a “Nazi” by the protesters during live TV interviews near parliament.

The Conservative lawmaker and at least two pro-European Union commentators were then pursued and harangued by the group as they made their way through the area. “We write to express our serious concerns about the deteriorating public order and security situation in and around the exterior of the parliamentary estate,” the MPs’ letter to police chief Cressida Dick stated, noting similar incidents last year.

“An ugly element of individuals with strong far right and extreme right connections… have increasingly engaged in intimidatory and potentially criminal acts targeting Members of Parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public,” it added. The Metropolitan Police said Monday it had received a complaint about a public order offence and its officers were “assessing if any crimes have been committed”. But Soubry accused the force of ignoring the increasing levels of abuse hurled at politicians and journalists.

The MP told ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” program that protestors were regularly “roaming around Westminster intimidating people going about their lawful business”. There was a noticeable police presence around parliament on Tuesday, particularly on the College Green site where media outlets carry anchored live coverage and conduct interviews with MPs and commentators. Several police trucks were seen parked up, while pairs and clusters of officers stood at different points around the perimeter of the laws. Political tensions are heightened in Westminster ahead of a crunch vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal next week.

Britain voted to leave the EU following a divisive 2016 referendum campaign and is set to depart the bloc on March 29. An AFP reporter on Monday saw anti- and pro-Brexit protesters, as on most days, around parliament, but there was no sign of those involved in Monday’s contentious scenes. Harry Todd, 27, a campaign organizer for the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave group protesting at Westminster daily since early December, said: “We have condemned the behavior because it was unacceptable”. Todd said he welcomed a more forceful police response because he did not want people’s right to protest so close to parliament curtailed. “I want everyone to feel safe when they’re protesting,” he said. – AFP

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