Sadiq Khan condemns “far-right” presence outside People’s Question Time in Ealing

Image above: A packed hall during People’s Question Time on Thursday; Noah Vickers Local Democracy Reporting Service

Mayor heckled and applauded for criticising far-right presence

Sadiq Khan on Thursday condemned what he described as ULEZ opponents aligning with far-right protestors, after far-right groups mobilised outside of Ealing Town Hall during People’s Question Time on Thursday evening (2 March).

A crowd of people, including elements of the far-right, had gathered to express their opposition to the plan at Ealing Town Hall, where the Mayor of London was participating in a ‘People’s Question Time’ event.

The protest welcomed attendees to the event, with honking heard down the road at Ealing Broadway. One man carried a coffin labelled ‘Democracy’ while others distributed leaflets containing various conspiracy theories. Others held signs which depicted Mr Khan next to a hammer and sickle as well as a Swatstika.

Mayor Khan was there to field questions from residents on a range of topics, from policing to housing, but his controversial ULEZ plan dominated the evening.

Many audience members appeared solely concerned about the ULEZ expansion and its financial impact. But several protestors outside belonged to far-right groups who were pushing conspiracy theories about so-called 15-minute cities and the supposed introduction of “social credit systems” in Britain.

Image above: Cllr Peter Mason – Leader of Ealing Council – condemned the far-right presence at Thursday’s protest on Twitter

Far-right presence “unacceptable” says Mayor while opponents criticise generalisation

Members of the crowd frequently heckled the Mayor and had to be reminded and threatened with removal by the event’s Chair, London Assembly Chair Dr Onkar Sahota. Amid loud boos and scattered applause from the crowd, Mr Khan said:

“What I find unacceptable is some of those who’ve got legitimate objections [about ULEZ] joining hands with some of those outside, who are part of a far-right group.

“Let’s be frank, let’s call a spade a spade. Some of those outside are part of the far-right. Some are Covid deniers. Some are vaccine-deniers. And some are Tories.”

Nick Rogers, London Assembly Member for South West London, who is considering standing as the Conservatives’ candidate to oppose to Sadiq Khan in the 2024 Mayoral election, seized upon the Mayor’s comments and characterised them as a sweeping generalisation. Mr Rogers said on Twitter:

“Tonight’s comments from @SadiqKhan at People’s Question Time are some of the most disgraceful I have ever heard from any politician. Labelling those who oppose his ULEZ expansion as ‘far right’ is not ok. If he can’t hack the pressure of being Mayor, he should resign.”

Image above: A protestor outside of Ealing Town Hall on Thursday, a leaflet handed out on Thursday alluding to a plot for a so-called social credit system in the UK; Noah Vickers Local Democracy Reporting Service

Conspiracy groups present have attended or supported other far-right events

Groups present at Ealing Town Hall on Thursday have supported or attended far-right protest across the UK, including February’s protest outside of a hotel housing asylum seekers in Knowsley, during which a police vehicle was set on fire, as well as a small protest organised by Turning Point UK against a drag queen story time outside The Honor Oak pub in Lewisham.

Attendees to the People’s Question Time event on Thursday evening were handed conspiracy theory leaflets by activists.

The leaflets referred to plans for a ‘digital future’ in which everyday citizens would allegedly need to provide a facial recognition scan, retinal scan, thumb scan and ‘genetic scan’ to replace older systems of identification. This new database of information, the leaflet claims, will be used to ‘determine your level of access to society and level of privileges’.

Signs held by protestors decried 15 minuted cities, an urban-planning concept where people live within walking or cycling distance of everything they need. The concept has been seized upon and distorted by far-right conspiracy theorists, who claim without evidence 15 minute cities are part of a wider ‘climate lockdown’ trend, a so-called communist plot to make people easier to control.

Similar leaflets and protest signs were commonplace at anti-lockdown protests, which took place throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Though with all legal Covid restrictions have now lifted, climate misinformation experts DeSmog say 15 minute cities, and by extension ULEZ, are being used as a wedge issue by climate change and Covid deniers.

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