- UK PM Theresa May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid
- United Kingdom
The Professional Standards Unit of the met police has initiated a review into the arrest and later dearrest of Oluwole IIesanmi, a Nigerian street preacher. On Saturday 23 February in front of Southgate Tube station, North London the committed born again preacher was simply sharing his faith in the type of common preaching which churches and Christians across the country are often involved with.
Police officers said they arrested Mr IIesanmi, “in order to prevent a breach of the peace”, yet in the video that was shared with us by an eyewitness we can see no malice emanating from Mr Ilesanmi.
Video can be viewed here:
In a verbal exchange recorded in the two-minute video we have acquired from the primary witness who recorded footage, one officer tells the unidentified preacher that he was “required to go away” because he was “disturbing people’s days”.
Mr Ilesamni responded by saying, “I will not go away because I need to tell them the truth. Jesus is the only way, truth and life.”
An eyewitness told BPCA, before the police arrived, the preacher was being confronted aggressively by a young man, apparently Muslim and in his 20s, wearing a hooded top. The man was loudly abusive about the Bible and God with his face close to the preacher’s. The young man also threatened the preacher, brandishing a closed fist holding prayer beads.
On his twitter feed the same eyewitness wrote in several messages (sic):
"Have the full video I stopped a Muslim guy from hitting him ! Stopped it getting nasty"
"I was there I can say this man was preaching and did nothing wrong had a hostile person near him . He was a bit loud .. but"
"The worst part of it was that when he was arrested and the preacher said please don’t take my Bible, the other policeman said well then you should’ve thought of that before you were racist?!!!"
"There was no islamophobia in the whole debate however the Muslim said his (the preachers ) bible was sh@t" (last word edited)
When the police arrived to question the street preacher they were witnessed saying that there had been a complaint of “Islamophobia” made against him. It is not known at the time of writing who made the complaint to the police. The young man ran away from the scene as soon as the police appeared.
According to Helen Millichap, Chief Superintendent and Enfield Borough Commander, the officers responded to a 999 call at 13:55 on Saturday 23 February from a member of the public who claimed that Mr IIesanmi had made “Islamophobic” comments and been confronted by “a small number” of people. According to the arresting officers, a second witness “supported the allegations made by the original caller”.
Officers "deemed it appropriate to remove" street preacher Oluwole Ilesanmi from the area, according to Chief Superintendent Helen MillichapIn the statement the Commander further justified the arrest by describing the preacher’s activities as being “perceived as being a potential hate crime”. However, nothing in the eyewitness account or video suggests that this was the case.
The police response also contradicts eye witness accounts by failing to make mention of the young man in a hooded top seen aggressively confronting the street preacher threatening him, before fleeing when the police arrived.
The preacher can be seen pleading calmly to two white police officers not to take away his Bible away from him. However in what can only be viewed as a humiliating arrest the officers placed Mr Ilesamni's arms behind his back, cuffed him deprived him of his Bible despite no attempt to prevent the police officers from their 'duties'. Even worse rather sardonically one officer can be heard replying, “You should have thought about that before being racist [sic].”
In 1997 Alison Redmond-Bate, the first street preacher to be arrested in Britain since the nineteenth century, was ordered to stop preaching by a police officer after a crowd of hecklers became abusive. When she refused she was arrested. However, in the appeal court, Lord Justice Sedley ruled, "A police officer has no right to call upon a citizen to desist from lawful conduct.”
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"Met police officers have very conflicting views on what causes offence in relation to religious matters on London Streets.
"In 2017 when BPCA led an Easter Parade event in Ilford Town Centre local Muslims began chanting Allah hu Akbar on a buskers mic, whilst Christians prayed on a live stage.
"The event caused a real panic in the streets where Christians and non-Muslims alike ran for cover until they realised it was simply an unlicensed.
"The Muslim gang then began behaving aggresively with the Christians who had applied for a temporary event notice until police were called by myself the main organiser for the event.
"When local police arrived they simply informed the Muslim group they were not permitted to use a PA without a license and allowed them to retain their pitched stall before the Christian stage. More details about this can be read (here)
"Rather bizarrely the mere utterance of words from the bible on a London street resulted in a rather humiliating arrest of Pastor Ilesamni.
"Policing protocols, policy, guidance and training regardig freedoms of speech and what constitutes a breach of the peace must be revisted so that Christian pastors are protected from unlawful arrests such as that exhibited in the video we have shared."
Christian preachers have been wrongfuly arrested for preachong the Gospel on UK streets numerous times. However the video of Preacher Oluwole IIesanmi clearly illustrates how UK police have little understanding of existing laws and what constitutes a breach of the peace.
We the undersigned believe that Christian street preachers should be free to share the gospel of Christ, This protection should be in place even where it challenges the beliefs of others.
Freedom of speech is enshrined in UK Law, even if it offends, shocks or disturbs others. The ability to speak without fear of arrest has enabled the UK to fashion a culture of change and must be upheld by police.
We call for changes in the training and policy guidance of Police authorities up and down the country. Quite simply negligence cannot be mitigated by ignorance.
The Protect Christian preachers petition to UK PM Theresa May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid was written by Wilson Chowdhry and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.