A video on social media which appeared to show police officers in London arresting a man for preaching the Christian gospel in the street has gone viral.
The video of the incident outside Southgate Tube station in north London on Saturday, 23 February, triggered a debate about whether a man could be arrested for simply discussing religion.
The Metropolitan Police issued a statement on Tuesday, 26 February, in which they tried to clarify what happened.
They said the police received a 999 call from a member of the public who claimed the man was making “Islamophobic statements” and had been confronted by several people.
“Officers attended and spoke with a second witness who supported the allegations made by the original caller. Officers attempted to speak with the man to explain why they had been called and advised him that he should leave the area. The man refused to leave and a decision was made to arrest him in order to prevent a breach of the peace,” said the statement.
The police say he was escorted away from the area and then “dearrested”.
“The Met respects and upholds the rights of all individuals to practice freedom of speech, and this includes street preachers of all religions and backgrounds,” said Acting Superintendent Neil Billany.
“However, if the language someone uses is perceived as being a potential hate crime, it is only right that we investigate. That is the role of the police, even if a decision is subsequently made that their actions are not criminal. In this case, it was deemed appropriate to remove the man from the area,” he added.
A complaint against the officers who attended is being reviewed by the police’s Professional Standards Unit.