The Lewisham branch of the National Education Union (NEU) has filed an official complaint against the Metropolitan Police (Met) for their conduct at a protest against a family-friendly drag event featuring That Girl at the Honor Oak Pub in south-east London. The protest was organized by Turning Point UK (TPUK), an offshoot of an American far-right group. At the protest, TPUK members accused the Met of “siding” with LGBTQ+ advocates and allies.
During anti-drag rallies outside the venue, the number of LGBTQ+ advocates and allies significantly outnumbered far-right extremists. On March 25th, hundreds of LGBT activists held a rally where they shouted “not welcome here” at the anti-drag protesters. On April 29th, protestors brought more messages of LGBTQ+ unity and played George Michael songs to drown out the TPUK group’s ranting. At each protest, police officers stood firmly between the opposing factions.
After police removed the group from outside a primary school opposite the Honor Oak pub in April, the Lewisham National Education Union filed a formal complaint with the Met’s borough commander. However, the police subsequently permitted TPUK followers to congregate there. The complaint stated that the police were “siding” with the racist anti-drag protesters. According to the complaint, “the police surrounded our small group and seemed to become aggressive with a lot of pushing.” An officer allegedly placed his hands around one of the member’s necks.
Witness Ada Cable told The Guardian that teachers “came out to stand near the school” to prevent “fascists” from scaling the school’s perimeter fence and posting “banners and placards on the fence.” During the protest, police officers hit and assaulted civilians and threatened to haul away the educators. An unidentified Lewisham council member said that police took too long to conduct interviews after TPUK members at the rally attacked LGBTQ+ protesters. They said that “several officers” were “seen pushing crowds back aggressively” and that “reports of serious injuries, including a cracked rib” surfaced.
Outside the Honor Oak Pub, a gathering of people who support the LGBTQ+ community were joined by members of the anti-racism organization Stand Up to Racism. In a tweet, Stand Up to Racism showed how the “community came out to oppose far-right Turning Point UK and their fascist friends” who had targeted the drag show and were met with a large presence of Met Police. One anti-fascist suffered a broken rib, the organization claimed; further details would be provided later.
During questioning by parliamentarians in April, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declined to criticize TPUK, a far-right organization known for its anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments. Sunak was asked to condemn TPUK’s “attempts to spread hatred and division” by Lewisham MP Vicky Foxcroft, but he said he was “not aware” of the problems Foxcroft raised.
In conclusion, the NEU’s complaint against the Met’s conduct during the TPUK protest against the family-friendly drag event at the Honor Oak Pub highlights the ongoing tensions between LGBTQ+ advocates and allies and far-right extremists. The police were accused of “siding” with the racist anti-drag protesters, and reports of police brutality and injuries to civilians and anti-fascists further illustrate the seriousness of the issue. It is crucial to support the LGBTQ+ community and stand against far-right extremism and hate speech.