A London High Court has ordered the Metropolitan Police as well as the Lambeth Council to pay £92,250 ($130,000) in damages to the Nation of Islam after they prevented the organization’s leader, Louis Farrakhan, from speaking at an event. An attorney for the claimants told the court Mr. Farrakhan had been invited to deliver a speech on reparations.
According to the Daily Mail, the judge ruled the decision by the police and the council to bar Mr. Farrakhan from delivering a speech at the 2017 event in Kennington Park in south London was a violation of his human rights.
Mr. Farrakhan had been invited by members of the Nation of Islam to remotely deliver a speech from the United States as part of the lineup of activities for the “4th Africa International Day of Action” event. However, when the Metropolitan Police and the council’s community safety team highlighted some issues, conditions were added to the permit the organizers were seeking to be able to hold the event. This included Mr. Farrakhan not being able to speak as initially planned.
The restrictions that were placed on the permit were challenged by the UK representative of the Nation of Islam as well as 33 other people who attended the event. They subsequently filed a claim against the Metropolitan Police and the council, the Daily Mail reported.
“Those objections were purportedly based on concerns relating to public order, specifically disorder by those not associated with the event seeking to disrupt it,” Martin Forde, attorney for the claimants, told the court on May 10. Forde also added Mr. Farrakhan was to deliver a speech on reparations.
“This discourse [about reparations] has been ongoing and it was thought that he could contribute to it,” Forde added. “All of the claimants in this case are of black African descent, as were most of the audience.
“Therefore, the topic of reparations is of considerable importance to many if not most of those who attended the event and more generally one of international consequence.”
The court was informed Mr. Farrakhan had been prevented from speaking at the event due to concerns of reactions from counter-protestors. The Metropolitan Police, however, admitted they could have handled the situation better.
“It is right to say that he is a person who has attracted a degree of historic controversy,” Forde told the court.
Mr. Farrakhan has been engulfed in a series of controversies over some of his past comments and he has also been accused of being anti-Semitic. He was banned from Facebook in 2019 for contravening the social media platform’s regulations on hate and violence. Despite the allegations, the lawyer for the claimants said the 88-year-old’s current reputation has been “misrepresented in a very sensationalized way in the media.”
Prior to the trial, the Metropolitan Police and the council had agreed with the claimants that what they did was in contravention to the group’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of thought and religion, the Daily Mail reported.
An attorney representing the Metropolitan Police said the counter-protester concerns and the decision to prevent Mr. Farrakhan from speaking weren’t because of the reparations topic but rather as a result of his previous “extreme views”. The judge, however, ruled the force as well as the council “unlawfully infringed” on the rights of the claimants under the Human Rights Act.
Besides the £92,250 damages fine, the council also has to sort out a £175,000 ($246,688) legal cost bill.