Met Police admits it gave councils wrong advice on Palestinian flag displays

The force now says the emblems cannot be hung without the express permission of a local authority


Mounted police officers pass a Palestinian flag hanging from a lamppost in Tower Hamlets (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

The Metropolitan Police has admitted it gave councils the wrong advice on the hanging of Palestinian flags on public property and now says express permission must be sought from local authorities for the displays.

The Met had previously said that the flags could be put up on street furniture such as lamp posts unless the council clearly forbade it.

Responding to a letter from campaign group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), the force said it recognised this advice had been incorrect.

“We accept that this is inaccurate and that the correct position is that unless a local authority actively consents to the affixing of flags in the street then a person is not entitled to do so and they may be committing an offence,” it wrote.

“Our position remains that the local authority has primary responsibility for enforcing any such offences. Following receipt of your letter, we have reviewed the position paper and decided to withdraw this and the ‘comms’."

Following October 7, Palestinian flags have been displayed in large numbers in some areas of the UK.

While those who put up the flags say they act out of solidarity with those suffering hunger and bombardment in Gaza, many in the Jewish community remember the celebrations that took place at several sites across London on October 7 where Palestinian flags were waved as an apparent tribute to the Hamas massacres. 

Speaking to the Daily Mail, one Jewish parent said: “I am the mother of a boy who goes to primary school in the ­borough.

“We have lived here for four years but we are leaving, even to go abroad, before he goes to secondary. This week, 11 flags hung outside his school. There is graffiti calling for a boycott on ‘apartheid Israel’ on a wall nearby.”

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI, said: “We are pleased that the Met Police have now accepted that it is illegal to hang Palestinian flags from lamp posts in public streets without permission from the Council.

"The previous advice, suggesting that this was lawful was encouraging disrespect for local authorities and intimidation of their staff, as documented in our letter, as well as criminal offences of hanging the flags, thereby exacerbating communal strife.”

Last month, Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman announced that he had made the “difficult” decision to remove Palestinian flags from street furniture.

“Until now, the council has decided not to remove the flags because we believe it could destabilise community cohesion,” a council spokesman said.

“However, the increasing focus on the issue, coupled with some unfair and divisive sentiment about our borough and its communities in recent weeks, has meant that the issue of flags has become part of a wider negative discourse used by some to misrepresent Tower Hamlets and our residents.

“Our overriding responsibility has always been, and remains, to support our communities, and we are concerned about the effect on them.

“As a result, the council has decided to begin the removal of flags from council infrastructure."

London MP Paul Scully had previously claimed that parts of Tower Hamlets had become a “no go” zone.

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign has insisted that "it very much doubts" the flags cause "any harm".

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