Three teenagers have been arrested for allegedly ripping down a Union Jack outside a London pub and setting fire to it while shouting “Allahu Akbar” – after one of them was chased and caught by a member of the public.
Three one aged 17 and the others 18, were detained just after 6pm on Monday, police confirmed.
In total, two flags were stolen from outside The Fox in Twickenham.
A bartender from another local pub told The Telegraph: “It was one of our regulars that was in the middle of it. He caught one of the guys.”
After snatching the flags the group ran off, at which point the pub-goer gave choice before calling the police after they tried to burn one of the Union Jacks and shouting “Free Palestine”.
Liberal Democrat councillor James Shard subsequently tweeted: “Well done to the Police for responding robustly to this incident.
“Church Street traders have a grand tradition of flying many flags, including for Twickenham’s guests in rugby internationals, Ukraine and others.
“This will no doubt continue. There is no room for hate here.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Three men have been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage and inciting racial hatred.
“Officers were called to reports of a group trying to remove and set fire to Union flags in Church Street, Twickenham just after 6pm tonight.
“It’s alleged they had made remarks about the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza.”
The arrests come after a weekend which saw the Met face criticism for their handling of pro-Palestine rallies in the capital.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman met Scotland Yard chief Sir Mark Rowley on Monday, where she is believed to have urged the use of the “full force of the law” after video emerged of a pro-Palestinian protester chanting “jihad”.
Officers had previously said no offences were identified in the footage from the demonstration in central London over the weekend.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Sir Mark said police could only enforce the law and not “taste and decency”.
He explained: “We are absolutely ruthless in tackling anybody who puts their foot over the legal line. We’re accountable for the law. We can’t enforce taste or decency, but we can enforce the law.”
He added: “The conversation finished really around the line of the law. It’s our job to enforce to that line.
“It’s Parliament’s job to draw that line. And the thought that maybe events at the moment … maybe some of the lines aren’t quite in the right place.”
It comes as Downing Street confirmed there were no plans to change the law, despite concern over footage from a demonstration by the Hizb ut-Tahrir fundamentalist group, which was separate to the main rally.
The Met had pointed out that jihad has “a number of meanings”, and said specialist counter-terrorism officers had not identified any offences arising from the specific clip from Saturday.
Instead, officers spoke to the man to “discourage any repeat of similar chanting”.