My brush with bus bigot


When I boarded a packed 102 bus in Golders Green on Tuesday evening, the last thing I expected was to be confronted with a racist free to spout antisemitic abuse with no one prepared to stop him.

On the top deck of my bus, which was full of Jewish school children, sat a grey-haired man screaming “get the Jews off the bus, all they do is f*** us”.

I took my seat and looked around stunned at what I was hearing, desperate to catch the eyes of other outraged passengers.

But all I saw was heads tilted, eyes down or firmly faced forward, as the man continued to shout: “I hate the Jews, burn them, I’m going to burn this bus.”

As the bus slowly crawled towards Temple Fortune, the man, who appeared to be in his late 40s, stood up and announced that the long line of traffic was “the Jews fault.”

Unchallenged, he stormed off and marched alongside the bus as it crawled towards the North Circular.

The relieved passengers visibly relaxed, with one joking, “I don’t think he could burn a bus”, was the only remark I heard anyone make about the incident.

As we continued our journey, I tweeted police and the Community Security Trust with details of what had happened, including photo evidence I had taken.

I thought that was the end of the matter, but to my horror I saw that the man had stopped walking and was now waiting at the next stop.

Surely he was not going to get on the bus again? Surely he wouldn’t be allowed?

I went downstairs to the driver.

“You’re not going to let this man back on a bus where there are unaccompanied Jewish school children?” I asked. “Are you aware of the abuse he has been shouting?”

The driver shrugged. “Yes I know. There is nothing I can do”, he said and proceeded to open the doors to the man, who climbed back up to the top deck and started shouting again.

Stunned, and by this point quite frightened, I dialled 999.

I explained to the operator I was on a bus with a passenger who was shouting racist slurs at passengers and threatening to burn the bus and the Jews on it. This was a crime happening now.

She told me that the driver would have to stop the bus to speak to her. When I passed this on to the driver, he refused.

When he pulled over at the next stop I gave him my phone and insisted he speak to the operator.

“He’s just shouting things. It’s no problem. He is just nuts”, he told her.

Even more disturbing was the emergency operator’s response.

She told me: “If the driver doesn’t stop the bus we can’t send police to you. He said the man was just shouting abuse, which is only anti-social behaviour.”

So there I was, a member of the public on the same bus as someone calling for me and others to be burnt, reporting a crime as it happened, and there was nothing the police or the bus driver could do to help me.

I got off at my stop feeling shaken and disheartened that I live in a city where it seems perfectly acceptable to travel on public transport and scream racist abuse at passengers and go unchallenged.

We have all seen bus drivers bar passengers for not having the right ticket or because their Oyster card has run out. But when it comes to racist abusers, there is nothing they are willing to do, apparently.

Even more upsetting was the fact that the people who we trust with our safety refused to act even when faced with a report of a crime in progress.

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