Three teenagers arrested after allegedly chanting ‘Free Palestine‘ and ‘Allahu Akbar’ while trying to set fire to a Union Jack have been released on bail.
The youths, two aged 18 and a 17-year-old, were held at the scene in Twickenham on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage and inciting racial hatred, the Metropolitan Police said.
Police were called just after 6pm on Monday on Church Street in Twickenham, London following reports that the group were trying to remove and set fire to the flags outside The Fox pub.
A bartender who works on the quaint pedestrianised London street, who asked not to be named, relayed the incident as it was described to her by a regular pub-goer, who allegedly intervened.
She said that during the incident the have-a-go hero chased one of the group and heard them saying ‘Allahu Akbar’.
The alleged incident took place outside the Fox pub in Twickenham (Church Street pictured)
Police were called just after 6pm on Monday on Church Street, in Twickenham
The bartender said: ‘It was one of our regulars that was in the middle of it. He caught one of the guys.’
A man from Snax Coffee Shop reportedly told her someone stole the flag from near his shop, which is at the top of Church Street near the main road and a few feet from The Fox Pub.
The bartender explained: ‘All I’ve heard is that the boy from Snax said somebody took the flag around there [towards the Fox Pub] and started burning it. Then he ran up to [the regular], who says he chased the guy. There was four of them, three have been caught and one is on the loose. [The regular], apparently he heard them say Allahu Akbar.
‘This is such a nice place, it seems to be getting worse. It used to be quite safe.’
Large flags stick out from all of the boutique shops and food stops along the idyllic pedestrianised street. As of last week, the majority have been switched to black and orange pumpkins for Halloween.
The Fox Pub confirmed two ‘British flags’ were stolen from outside its building.
A waiter at Naz Balti, an Indian restaurant immediately opposite The Fox, said the pub used to have two Union flags hanging outside. He pointed out that they had been severed from their stands, adding the alleged flag burning would be a ‘big offence.’
The Met said that a 17-year-old and two 18-year-olds were arrested at the scene
Atin Miah, who has lived in Twickenham since 1973, said: ‘This area, as far as we know, we have never had a problem. I’ve never seen a problem. It’s one of the best streets in Middlesex, people are so nice.
‘I came in today, I heard from one of my colleagues, something happened yesterday. What are they doing? It’s bad, seriously. If I had a customer in here, if someone just got into the restaurant, how would we feel?
‘They’re stupid. What do they think is going to happen by taking the flags anyway? This is a big offence, because in Britain, along with other countries, it is really respected, that flag. That is important, not only for here, all over the world.’
A beautician, who works at a parlour and wanted to remain anonymous, said: ‘I know I left here about 7.15pm, there were a few policemen. I just saw the police afterwards, I was a little confused because there was no Union Jack flag [outside the pub], it’s all Halloween flags.’
A spokesperson for the Fox said said they handed in footage of the incident to the cops.
They said: ‘We are assisting police with their investigation following two British flags having been stolen from outside our premises. We would like to reassure our customers that safety of our customers is our number one priority and our CCTV has been handed over to the police.’
A Met Police spokeswoman said: ‘At 6.09pm on Monday October 23 police were called to Church Street, Twickenham, following reports of a group trying to remove and set fire to Union flags.
‘Two men, aged 18 and a 17-year-old boy, were arrested at the scene on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage and inciting racial hatred.
‘It is alleged that the suspects made reference to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza.’
She added: ‘They were taken into custody and were later bailed to return on a date in mid-November pending further enquiries.’