The head of Greater Manchester Police is facing calls for his resignation after protestors at the Conservative Party Conference hurled anti-Semitic abuse at Jewish delegates while officers stood by. Criticism has been mounting over the policing of the event, thanks to reports of a number of violent and threatening incidents, including rape threats and assaults.
Large crowds of protestors dogged the central Manchester conference all week, surrounding the venue to hurl abuse at those coming and going. On Sunday morning, as a group of Jewish conference goers wearing kippah’s (the skull-caps worn by Jewish men) left the conference venue, protestors were heard to yell “Jewish Tory scum, get back to Auschwitz.”
Stephen Woods, Chairman of the Conservative Sale East and Wythenshawe Association was with the Jewish delegates when the incident occurred. Speaking to various media outlets, he said: “I was leaving the venue at the same time as these two guys, so we walked out together. First of all we passed these animal rights guys pushing cameras in our faces and videoing us but then these three men with scarves over their faces starting shouting ‘Jew scum’.
“One of them then shouted ‘Get back to Auschwitz’. This was definitely in the earshot of the police but they did nothing. It was disgusting.
“The abuse we had to endure was despicable,” he said. “I have never heard such vile language. The whole incident left us all shaken up.”
Yesterday, a #CPC15 attendee in a skullcap was told to, “Fuck off back to Auschwitz” by protestors. Welcome to Corbyn’s new kind of politics
— Deborah Thomas (@dht09) October 7, 2015
As news of the incident spread via Twitter, former Conservative MP Lousise Mensch called for Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable Peter Fahy to resign.
Jewish Conservative wearing kippah attends #CPC15. Protestor shouts at him “Fuck off back to Auschwitz”. Manchester Chief Constable, resign
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) October 7, 2015
The incident is just one endured by delegates as they attending Conservative conference this year.
As many as 120,000 protestors turned up at the city centre on Sunday to protest against the Conservative government. Some amongst the chanting crowd were not content merely with hurling insults – one young Tory member was hit by an egg, while the Huffington Post journalist Owen Bennett was spat at in the face. His attacker was arrested and led away. In another chilling incident, a female delegate waiting for a taxi was threatened with rape. She quickly jumped into a cab and sped away before her assailant could act on his threat.
Commenting on the report of anti-Semitic abuse, a spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said it had “not received any reports in relation to this matter,” adding “GMP will not stand for any incidents of antisemitism and officers policing the conference were given clear direction to take action against any individual who goes beyond peaceful protest into unlawful actions.
“As a result, officers are arresting and charging those we believe to be responsible for any offences committed against either delegates or protestors. If anyone has been a victim of any such incident, they are encouraged to please report this to the police and we will investigate.”
In total 27 arrests were made over the course of the conference, none in relation to anti-Semitism.
But many have said that the response by police was simply not good enough. Peter Walker, a former Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police has criticised the whole operation, accusing the force of bad planning in the run up to the event.
“It is not difficult to identify people attending any venue and especially members of the Conservative Party – whether they are wearing their passes/lanyards or not. Their direction of travel and their dress will be enough to spot them. At the entrance of the conference, the police permitted demonstrators to get amongst approaching conference attendees without hindrance,” he said.
“We were all subjected to abuse, but spitting, jostling and really intimidatory conduct was far too frequent. Public order legislation includes a number of offences relating to those who cause alarm, harassment or distress and were committed on many occasions over the past few days.”
He has made it clear that his criticism is directed at GMP’s leadership team, acknowledging that individual officers are unable to leave their posts at an event as to do so would have compromised the safety of the venue.
“It should be understood that, for very good reason, individual officers are under strict instructions not to leave their posts,” he said. “The “come on” distraction is always a risk that might leave a gap in the ring of officers around the venue. For that reason, my comments are not aimed at the individual officers, but their leaders.”
Three “particularly serious” incidents were allowed to develop over the course of the conference, he said – on Monday morning protestors were able to get too close to delegates who were queueing to get into the venue, and twice protestors took control of whole streets.