On June 3rd, participants of the annual Sikh remembrance march, held in memory of those lost in the events which led to the 1984 Sikh Genocide, were left ‘angry about the no show from traffic police’ to escort the thousands of marchers through London’s traffic.
Here we share an official statement from the Sikh Federation UK on this incident and details of their campaign to encourage Sikhs to address the ‘negligence’ of London’s authorities in not providing an escort for the march by sending a letter (a template for which can be found below) to their local MP.
London – 4 June 2016
The Sikh Federation (UK) has written to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner demanding an apology for police negligence and incompetence by putting the lives of thousands of peaceful Sikh protesters at risk yesterday in central London.
Every year since June 1984 thousands of Sikhs, young and old from across the UK have gathered in central London to protest against the 1984 Sikh Genocide, remember the thousands killed by the Indian authorities for which there has been no justice and demand a separate Sikh homeland, Khalistan.
For the first time in 35 years the Metropolitan Police failed to turn up to stop traffic to allow the protest march between Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. Although the organisers believe this is down to police negligence and incompetence and are demanding an apology there is speculation the police may have backed away from supporting the protest due to pressure from the Indian authorities.
In a recent incident in Parliament Square the police have been heavily criticised by the Indian authorities for watching the official Indian flag for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being torn down and ripped to pieces by protesters in Parliament Square. Some in India have also suggested action against the UK Government in international courts.
Sikhs are angry about the no show from traffic police yesterday and said it is unacceptable that the Sikh community is being left without police support and penalised for being well behaved and law abiding.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:
“What sort of message are the police trying to send? We only police events if you are going to cause problems or break the law?”
“It appears we are being punished as we are guilty of being a law-abiding community that keeps its own house in order.”
“Anything is possible given the revelations in UK government papers last year that in June 1984 the Home Office were under intense pressure from the Indian authorities to arrest and intern Sikh leaders (the Presidents of all UK Gurdwaras) to disrupt the very first protest in London to highlight the 1984 Sikh Genocide.”
“When the police refused to arrest UK Sikh leaders in June 1984 the suggestion was made by an Indian Minister to the British High Commissioner in Delhi that Sikh protesters should be shot dead in London.”
There was significant disruption to the protest march yesterday before our own stewards and Sikh youth took matters into their own hands and risked themselves by putting their bodies between the ongoing traffic and the protest march to close roads themselves. Protesters were unnecessarily put at risk, especially families with young children and the elderly. The Sikh Federation (UK) expect over 100 MPs to receive letters in the next 48 hours from constituents upset and dismayed with the lack of police presence urging them to contact the Mayor and Commissioner.
What was very strange was police were worried about a potential flash point at Speakers Corner as they expected there to be a large group to support Tommy Robinson and counter demonstrators, but traffic police failed to turn up forcing Sikh protesters to flood Speakers Corner. Police were also there at the start of the protest in a CCTV van monitoring Sikhs suggesting a more sinister role.
An urgent meeting has also been requested by the Sikh Federation (UK) with the Mayor and Commissioner to discuss what took place and to prevent anything like this from reoccurring.
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)
Chronology of events – Sunday 3 June 2018
Yesterday soon after we arrived in Hyde Park just before 10am we realised a large crane was blocking the planned route of the protest march and Piccadilly was closed. This would have been known to TfL, MPS and Westminster City Council in advance, but they were negligent in informing us or making alternative arrangements for the protest march.
We franticly spoke to Met Police officers based in Hyde Park and two sets of other Met Police officers that were in Hyde Park to explain the need to find an alternative route for the protest march and for police to assist our stewards with stopping traffic. In all cases the officers concerned were helpful in trying to assist, but also embarrassed with the total lack of police support. Incidentally one set of Met Police officers were in a CCTV van that informed us they were specifically there to monitor those at our protest march, which suggested police involvement for purposes other than assisting.
Police officers told us that a potential flash point was at Speakers Corner as they expected there to be a large group to support Tommy Robinson and counter demonstrators. However, to our complete dismay as the protest march left Hyde Park and entered North Carriage Drive the police had not turned up to manage traffic ‘congestion’ as indicated and protesters were forced back into Hyde Park near Speakers Corner.
In our view this was negligent and putting at risk young children and the elderly in a volatile situation. At this point the matter was escalated and police realised they had a volatile and dangerous situation that needed police intervention.
We stopped the protest march near Speakers Corner for about 10-15 minutes, but as police who were being rushed to assist failed to turn up we took matters into our own hands. Our stewards and Sikh youth stopped traffic on Park Lane, Cumberland Gate and Bayswater Road to get the front of the protest march to the other side of Park Lane. However, many protesters towards the back were left stranded and forced in large numbers to cross roads and walk on the area between the carriages on Park Lane that are north and south bound. Eventually we managed to get all protesters together on Park Lane.
Traffic officers eventually turned up more than half way through the protest march at Hyde Park Corner near Piccadilly to guide us towards Constitution Hill. Due to the closure of Piccadilly the alternative route we took was Constitutional Hill and The Mall as this is closed to traffic on Sundays. However, this was the route we had suggested four hours earlier and had to force upon the police as no one competent was able to make the decision.
SFUK Campaign and letter template
Urgent letter to send your constituency MP. We would like 100 MPs+ contacted in the next 24 hours. Confirm the name of your MP when contacted.
For questions or requests please email email@example.com.
Dear *Insert MPs Name*
Lives of thousands of Sikh protesters, including some of your constituents, put at risk by Metropolitan Police on Sunday 3 June 2018
Can you please write to the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to raise concerns about police negligence and incompetence. A public apology is in order to the British Sikh community.
You will be aware that every year thousands of Sikhs gather in central London to mark the 1984 Sikh Genocide. This was the first time in 35 years the Metropolitan Police failed to turn up and manage traffic to allow Sikhs to walk from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, although they were there to gather intelligence and film the protest.
Many present on Sunday 3 June could not understand why Sikhs who are law-abiding were being penalised and put at risk on the streets of London and forced into Speakers Corner with supporters of Tommy Robinson and counter demonstrators.
As traffic police failed to arrive our own stewards and Sikh youth were forced to take matters into their own hands and risked themselves by putting their bodies between the ongoing traffic and the protest march to close roads. It was only due the bravery of our stewards and youth and with God’s grace there were no casualties or fatalities. The police must support this event each year and this should not be allowed to happen again.
I attach the letter the Sikh Federation (UK) has sent to the Mayor and Commissioner that provides all relevant background information.
*Insert your name and full address with postcode*
Mayor of London
The Queen’s Walk
Metropolitan Police Commissioner
New Scotland Yard
4 June 2018
Metropolitan Police negligence and incompetence putting lives of peaceful Sikh protesters from across the UK at risk – Apology and urgent meeting
Every year since June 1984 thousands of Sikhs, young and old from across the UK have gathered in central London to protest against the 1984 Sikh Genocide, remember the thousands killed by the Indian authorities for which there has been no justice and demand our freedom.
It is ironic that it appears the problem is Sikhs are law abiding therefore police involvement in recent years has been minimum. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has concluded the risk of public disorder at this annual event is very low and therefore police involvement has been confined to assistance with helping close roads to traffic to allow for a safe protest march between Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square and minimum disruption to road users.
The Federation of Sikh Organisations UK that organise the annual protest and remembrance march and rally leave many of the practical and logistical arrangements for the event to representatives of the Sikh Federation (UK).
We usually begin correspondence with all interested parties around six months before the annual event and are always willing to make adjustments, even a the 11th hour recognising events can take place that result in other pressures on police time. For example last year with the London Bridge incident les than 24 hours before our event we responded by cancelling the gathering in Hyde Park and the protest march by holding a static event in Trafalgar Square only.
Those we write to include:
- the Greater London Authority (GLA) on the use of Trafalgar Square where a massive rally is held to conclude the event;
- Royal Parks Agency (RPA) on the use of Hyde Park as the gathering point for the protest march;
- Transport for London (TfL) on the closure of roads and to minimise the impact on public transport and road users;
- the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on the planned route for the protest march, drop off and pick up points for around 150 coaches and issues relating to safety and security; and
- Westminster City Council as the other main interested party given the location of the protest and rally. For the event that took place yesterday on Sunday 3 June 2018 we wrote to all concerned in December 2017. We obtained all necessary permissions and licences from the GLA on the use of Trafalgar Square and RPA on the use of Hyde Park. Six days before the event we met representatives of the RPA and TfL. However, all were disappointed with the absence of the MPS that had in previous years co-ordinated and hosted meetings.
We specifically then wrote to the MPS and Westminster City Council last Thursday to express our disappointment with the complete lack of engagement since December 2017 and the need for police assistance with road closures for the protest march to ensure it was peaceful and orderly.
The MPS wrote back the same day to state their ‘intelligence’ suggested there would be no public order issues and they would not be ‘policing the event’ under the ‘core policing responsibilities’ of ‘maintaining the peace or crime and disorder’. However, the MPS continued that its Roads and Transport Policing Command were aware that the TfL had obtained a Traffic Management Order from Westminster City Council.
On Friday morning the MPS telephoned at 11am to tell us TfL had requested police assistance to deal with traffic ‘congestion’ as a result of the large protest march. However at 5pm on Friday the same police officer called again and had the cheek and incompetence to suggest a static event at the 11th hour that we rightly dismissed.
In the attached annex we set out what took place yesterday that indicates gross negligence on the part of the MPS and others, some of which you have ultimate responsibility that put the lives of Sikh protesters at risk. It was only due to the speed or reaction of our stewards and Sikh youth that no one was seriously injured or killed. There were several potential flash points and also incidences of road rage partly due to the complete absence of traffic police until we reached the end of Park Lane.
It is unacceptable the Sikh community is being left without police support and penalised for being well behaved, law abiding and too accommodating. There was significant disruption and delay at the start of the protest march with protesters put at risk, especially families with young children and the elderly. We will later today be asking those present who were upset and dismayed with the lack of police presence to write to their MPs and ask MPs to write to you both.
The Sikh community deserve an immediate public apology from the Metropolitan Police Service at the highest level and would like an urgent meeting with you both to prevent anything like this from reoccurring.
This letter is being copied to Sophie Linden, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.
Bhai Amrik Singh
Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK)