The Metropolitan Police has issued an apology after complaints about its officers' "extreme heavy-handed tactics" and "disrespect of religious values" during a Sikh Lives Matter demonstration in central London.
This comes after it was revealed that officers broke a Sikh flag in half during the protest outside the Indian High Commission on 22 October and also removed articles of faith from protesters after they were arrested. Organisers of the protest issued a statement citing the incidents as "hugely disrespectful and designed to get a reaction".
Members of the Sikh Federation UK met with the Met on 28 October to voice their concerns and the apology was issued on 31 October.
Referring to the breaking of a Sikh flag by a police officer, Commander Mak Chishty of the Met said: "This is deeply disrespectful to the Sikh community and is not acceptable. I understand the distress and hurt that has been caused and I sincerely apologise to our Sikh community for this."
Chishty said that the Met wanted to learn from what had happened and would, therefore, be issuing specific briefing points for all officers deployed on similar protests in the future to include the significance of the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag).
The police were also accused of removing Kirpans, a ceremonial knife carried by Sikhs, after they arrested two protesters. Chishty noted that this went against the orders of the senior officer present at the protest and ensured the Sikh community that a briefing would also be issued on Kirpans to all officers.
"I would like to reassure our Sikh community that no disrespect or offence was ever intended and I apologise for any distress, hurt or offence that has been caused," said Chishty. "I believe that we have a great and long-standing relationship with our Sikh community with mutual trust, confidence and respect being built over many, many years. This enabled us to meet and discuss a number of key concerns in an open, honest and constructive way."
The Sikh Federation UK welcomed the apology issued by the Met, however, they noted that they would be following up on a number of other issues in the weeks to come.