UK
31/10/2015 17:44 GMT | Updated 31/10/2015 18:59 GMT

Metropolitan Police Apologises Over Treatment Of Protesters During #SikhLivesMatter Demonstration

The Metropolitan Police have apologised for disrespecting Sikhs - including grabbing and breaking a sacred flag - during a recent protest in London.

Sikhs gathered to protest outside the Indian High Commission in Aldwych on October 22 over events in the Punjab region, where two men were recently killed by police during a demonstration against the desecration of the Sikh holy book.

The London protest turned violent. One officer suffered a head injury and around 20 demonstrators were arrested.

After the Sikh community raised concerns about the policing, the force apologised for how an officer took a sacred Nishan Sahib flag from a demonstrator before snapping the stick and throwing it to the ground.

nishan sahib

A Nishan Sahib flag

Commander Mak Chishty, the force's head of community engagement, said this was "deeply disrespectful" and also apologised to two demonstrators whose kirpans - a ceremonial knife carried by Sikhs - were removed after they were arrested.

"I understand the distress and hurt that has been caused and I sincerely apologise to our Sikh community for this," he said in a statement.

"We will learn from this and a specific briefing point for all officers deployed on future protests of this type will include the significance of the Nishan Sahib.

He said the kirpans were taken against the direction of a senior officer who later apologised to them during the protest.

Mr Chishty added: "I would also like to offer my sincere apologies for this and once again this be a briefing point for all future protests."

mak chishty

Mak Chishty said the treatment of some protesters had been 'deeply disrespectful'

The officer met representatives of the Sikh community at New Scotland Yard on October 28 as he "became aware of growing concerns" over the policing of the protest, he said.

"I believe we have a great and long standing relationship with our Sikh Community with mutual trust, confidence and respect being built over many years," he said.

"This enabled us to meet and discuss a number of concerns in an open, honest and constructive way. I am grateful to the Sikh community for meeting with me and enabling a better understanding on both of our parts.

"I would like to reassure the Sikh community that no disrespect or offence was intended and apologise for any distress, hurt or offence that has been caused."