Met Police officers have spoken of the need to prevent tensions escalating between Jewish and Muslim communities in the midst of war in Gaza.

Pro-Palestine marches across London have attracted hundreds of thousands of protestors amid Israeli retribution for Hamas's murder and abduction of civilians in Israel on October 7.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman branded the protests “hate marches” and welcomed a statement by the Metropolitan Police saying plans for a protest on Armistice Day were “not appropriate”.

PC Jordi Navarro, faith officer for Hackney Police, is clear that while he cannot comment on specific political statements, the Met “have to respect everybody’s right to demonstrate”.

Speaking on a recent pro-Palestine protest in Hackney, he said: “The Jewish community and the Muslim community both respect that right.

“Where the respect stops is when they cross over into criminal activity and abuse.

“I think if you take the protest outside Hackney Town Hall, it was extremely peaceful and as far as I am aware there wasn’t a single arrest. That’s the kind of protest we want to be seeing.”

PC Navarro has worked in the police for just over 15 years, becoming the faith officer for Hackney in 2019.

He acknowledged that in the weeks since the Hamas attack on Israel and with the ensuing conflict in Gaza, there has been an atmosphere of fear among some communities that he has never witnessed before.

PC Navarro said: “What we saw was an initial rise in antisemitism very quickly and then it was people from the Jewish community coming to us and saying – we’re scared, we’ve never been this scared.

“There were people there that I’ve known for 15 years who have never said those words to me and they were feeling genuine fear immediately.

“Then we started getting Muslim leaders as well saying the same thing.”

He added that while there has been a noticeable rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the borough in recent weeks, this is primarily due to “groups of people coming from central London”, rather than local people.

His counterpart in Tower Hamlets, PC Naz Hannan, said that despite what people might think there are strong links between Muslim and Jewish communities in the borough.

He said: “The harmony you see is so pleasing.

“We get people from other parts of London that will drive through and shout out to maybe members of the Jewish community, but it’s not necessarily the case amongst the direct neighbours of the synagogues.”

He added: “It’s not about Jews against Muslims, or Muslims against Jews.

“That’s been taken over by a minority of bad people, but the majority of people understand each other and want the best for each other, they want peace for each other.”

Both officers are concerned by recent spikes in hate crimes directed at both the Jewish and Muslim communities, as tensions in the Middle East continue to escalate.

PC Navarro said: “There are some concerns locally. It’s not fear that local people from those demonstrations will commit offences, it’s that you’ll get groups of people coming from central London and come to our boroughs to cause problems.

“Motorcades like we had driving through Stamford Hill, people coming through Tower Hamlets shouting abuse.

“We see it time and time again – it’s people coming into the area and causing these problems.”

He added: “We do worry about whether tensions will change locally in the long-term. One of the ways that we try and counter that is by encouraging discussions between different groups.”

PC Navarro pointed to the Muslim Jewish Forum of Stamford Hill as an example of how communities build mutual understanding and respect during challenging times.

In the meantime, he is clear that the police will continue to patrol near to religious sites to reassure communities and allow them to raise any concerns they may have.  

PC Hannan added: “We’re now at a point where we get calls at one o’clock in the morning, which is not a problem.

“In a weird way it’s almost an honour that they feel that they can call you at one o’clock in the morning, they feel that they have that relationship.

“We’re there to take care of problems while they’re small, before they get big.”