‘Yel­low vest’ ac­tivist ar­rested be­fore rally

The Sunday Telegraph - - Countdown to Brexit - By Steve Bird

ONE of the lead­ing mem­bers of the so­called “yel­low vests” pro­test­ers was ar­rested yesterday on sus­pi­cion of a pub­lic order of­fence con­nected to the ha­rangu­ing of Anna Soubry, the Con­ser­va­tive MP.

James God­dard, the 29-year-old proBrexit ac­tivist, was de­tained out­side St James’s Park Tube sta­tion as demon­stra­tors ar­rived for a rally in London.

So­cial me­dia footage of the ar­rest showed him kiss­ing a girl good­bye and shak­ing sup­port­ers’ hands as around six of­fi­cers ap­proached him shortly be­fore mid­day. Some of his fel­low pro­test­ers in­sisted he was due to hand him­self in at a po­lice sta­tion in the cap­i­tal be­fore his ar­rest. Mr God­dard was last night re­leased on bail.

The for­mer fork­lift truck driver from An­stey, Le­ices­ter, had declared yesterday a day of ac­tion, with protests planned in a num­ber of ma­jor cities.

The “Yel­low Vest UK” group came to promi­nence last Mon­day when they filmed them­selves shout­ing “Nazi”, and “liar” at Ms Soubry, who has called for a second Brexit ref­er­en­dum.

The heck­lers’ chants could be heard dur­ing a se­ries of tele­vi­sion in­ter­views she was tak­ing part in on the green op­po­site the Houses of Par­lia­ment. She was then fol­lowed by demon­stra­tors, in­clud­ing Mr God­dard, as she made her way to the Palace of West­min­ster.

The in­ci­dent prompted John Ber­cow, the Com­mons Speaker, and more than 100 MPs to write to Cres­sida Dick, the Metropoli­tan Po­lice Com­mis­sioner, urg­ing po­lice to do more to tackle the ugly scenes in­volv­ing demon­stra­tors and MPs in Par­lia­ment Square. In the let­ter, Mr Ber­cow com­plained that politi­cians and jour­nal­ists were be­ing sub­jected to “toxic at­tacks” and ag­gres- sive, in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iour”. Ms Soubry, the MP for Brox­towe, later said that she “felt in phys­i­cal dan­ger” and that the po­lice were not do­ing enough to in­ter­vene, adding that she felt “ex­posed and com­pletely left to my own de­vices” when con­fronted by the group of men.

Po­lice were crit­i­cised for fail­ing to chal­lenge those whose be­hav­iour may have strayed from ex­er­cis­ing free­dom of speech to com­mit­ting ha­rass­ment.

Se­nior of­fi­cers said they were re­view­ing the in­ci­dent to see whether a crime had been com­mit­ted.

Mr God­dard has used so­cial me­dia to pro­mote the “yel­low vest” marches, which be­gan just over a month ago. The move­ment has been in­spired by the di­rect ac­tion of the gilets jaunes demon­stra­tors in Paris.

Mr God­dard’s ar­rest led to a flurry of do­na­tions on a web­site he has set up in order to raise funds for his “cam­paign­ing”. Last week, his Face­book and PayPal ac­counts were suspended be­cause some of his posts were said to have breached those com­pa­nies’ poli­cies.

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