‘Yellow vest’ activist arrested before rally
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.