Police investigate 'Yellow Vest' protests after footage shows harassment outside Parliament
Responding to claims the group were far-right, 'Yellow Vest' ringleader James Goddard told JOE: "I've never been a member of a political organisation or street movement... although there's nothing wrong with the EDL they've done some very good things over the years"
Pro-Brexit 'Yellow Vest' protests outside Parliament are under investigation by police after footage emerged showing a group of demonstrators shouting abuse at Conservative MP Anna Soubry and journalist Owen Jones on Monday.
Scotland Yard said it was looking into whether a public order offence had taken place after the extremist protesters were captured shouting "Soubry is a Nazi" during a television interview given by the Tory MP, as well as following and verbally abusing Jones in a video the Guardian columnist posted to Twitter.
In separate footage, the group's ringleader James Goddard was also filmed ranting about police officers, saying: "If they want a war we’ll give them a war, let’s give them a fucking war."
Here's footage of Far Right 'Yellow Vest' leader James Goddard telling people (police?) they're 'fair game' and threatening 'war'. When is enough going to be enough? When someone's hurt? Killed? (via @dunc_saboteur) pic.twitter.com/yUkjCZSPHT
— Mike Stuchbery 💀🍷 (@MikeStuchbery_) January 7, 2019
Police said they would deal "robustly" with any harassment or abuse that "constituted a criminal offence" as part of an ongoing operation around Westminister, adding that it was their role to "facilitate peaceful protest and balance the needs and rights of all those present, including protestors, MPs and members of the public".
However, a cross-party group of over 50 MPs on Tuesday submitted a letter criticising a "lack of co-ordination" from police in the area around Parliament
They wrote: "After months of peaceful and calm protests by groups representing a range of political views on Brexit, an ugly element of individuals with strong far right and extreme right connections – which your officers are well aware of – have increasingly engaged in intimidatory and potentially criminal acts targeting members of parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public."
Speaking to JOE, Goddard, who has been part of the mob heckling politicians outside Westminster since protests began in early December, denied claims that the group were "far-right" and defended the verbal abuse of Soubry.
"She's openly called me a Nazi, as well as me calling it her," he said.
"She's also said I'm a member of the English Defence League. I've never been a member of a political organisation or street movement... although there's nothing wrong with the EDL they've done some very good things over the years."
Adding of accusations that the group were far-right: "There's not one person here that's a member of the EDL. They call everyone far-right that disagrees with their narrative.
"I'm not a Nazi, I don't believe in anything like that, I just genuinely care about my country."
But Soubry, who was first targeted by the group last month, called on the police to take action on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.
“It crossed the line in December, it was journalists who were being attacked," she said.
“[Sky News’ political editor] Faisal Islam, who is male, was racially abused by these people, it’s the same group, all on video and the policy of the Metropolitan Police is to ignore it.”
Nick Lowles, of anti-rascist group HOPE not hate CEO, said: "The British far right are attempting to copy the French ‘yellow vests’ protests in order to stir up trouble and harass, threaten and attack their political opponents. The appalling abuse faced by Anna Soubry MP, Sky News presenter Kay Burley and campaigning journalist Owen Jones are simply the latest incidents in a growing list of far-right actions across the UK.
"With the Brexit clock running down, the threat from the far right is growing and the risk of disorder and violence is on the rise. While everyone should be allowed to protest peacefully, it is time for the authorities to clamp down on the bullying and threatening tactics used by these extremists before someone is seriously injured.
"Two years after Jo Cox was murdered by a neo-nazi using the term ‘traitor’, and after HOPE not hate revealed a plot by another neo-nazi to kill a Labour MP last year, police must act now to ensure that the targets of these protests are kept safe."