Jewish councillor hissed at by public gallery during Newham council meeting

The budget meeting was suspended after Labour councillor Joshua Garfield was hissed and booed before addressing the council


A council meeting in Newham, East London was suspended after Jewish councillor Joshua Garfield was hissed at by attendees in the public gallery.

Garfield, a Jewish Labour councillor for Stratford and the only Jewish councillor in the borough, approached the microphone at a Newham council meeting to contribute to the discussion on setting the budget, but was met with the sound of hissing and jeering.

He told the JC: “Last night’s budget meeting was disrupted by hateful attacks directed at me as a Jewish Councillor from supporters of the Newham Independents. They are the same people cheering Galloway’s victory in Rochdale. I am proud to have stood up to them and I will continue to stand up to all those who seek to pursue the politics of division. I’m grateful to have received support from across the Labour Party and beyond, which motivates me to continue being a proud Jew in public office.”

Addressing the gallery, Garfield said: “If members in the gallery want to hiss me, they might wish to speak to my face about the issues they have. But Chair, I won’t accept it.”

In response to mounting clamour in the room, the chair of the meeting Cllr Rohima Rahman called for the meeting to be adjourned for 15 minutes. When it eventually resumed, Cllr Rahman said: “Can I just say what we have witnessed here, the misbehaviour of the public, is not acceptable at all. Therefore I made a decision that the public needs to be removed from the public gallery to continue our council business.”

The chair then ordered another brief suspension of the meeting for the security team to remove members of the public. She added that “any antisemitism or Islamophobia is not acceptable for this council.”

Newham Independents posted a video on the party’s X account taken from the gallery of the council meeting during the moment the chair excused the public gallery. The clip showed gallery members shouting and was captioned: “Angry residents challenge Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz. Labour then cleared the public gallery to ensure that resident's views would not be heard. Labour has deserted the working class!”

When Garfield, who is the Policy Officer for the Jewish Labour Movement, was recalled to address the council shortly thereafter, he was applauded by colleagues as he approached the microphone.

“I will say what I always intended to say which is to speak on the amendment, but I will also say that robust debate, disagreement, agreement, however strongly, is something that I and I know my colleagues in Labour group always welcome,” Garfield said. “But I have spent four years as the only Jewish member of this council, 18 months as the only Jewish member of cabinet. It will take a lot more than that to bully me out of public life.”

Newham Labour posted a message of support for Garfield on X, writing: “Democracy is the beating heart of our strong, inclusive & diverse Newham. We alwl have a role to play as elected representatives, citizens & voters to protect & preserve it. For our Jewish councillor Joshua Garfield to be hissed at as he got up to speak is antisemitic hate.”

After the incident, Garfield tweeted his response to the intimidators at the council meeting: “Those who seek to erode democracy by bullying me out of public life because of my ethnicity will not win. Antisemites disrupting our budget council meeting to hiss me before I’ve spoken have not silenced me and they never will.”

According to his profile on Newham Labour’s website, Garfield is a campaigner for “sustainable development” as well as “better housing repairs and tackling homelessness.”

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