A faith leader has slammed police and town hall chiefs, after he successfully sued them for banning one of the speakers at an event he organised, in a case which has cost close to £900,000.
The Met and Lambeth council were wrong to block preacher the Honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan giving a speech via video link at an event, because they breached his human rights, the High Court ruled on Monday.
Mr Farrakhan’s views have been described as “anti-semitic and racially divisive” by Home Office lawyers, and as a result he was banned from the United Kingdom from 1986-2014 by successive Home Secretaries.
He was also banned for hate speech by Facebook and Instagram in 2019.
But the Nation of Islam has repeatedly rejected the claims as false and politically motivated.
Abdul-Hakeem Muhammad, the Brixton born-and-raised European Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam, said: “We have held the decision-makers to account to justify their actions and prove their claims but they have been unable to do so.
“We recognise that Lambeth has finally accepted that the measures taken to restrict Louis Farrakhan and Lambeth residents was disproportionate and totally unacceptable.
“While our event was banned, events which some people also find challenging such as Pride and the nude bike ride through Brixton in June 2019 were not banned.
“This is because Brixton is a multicultural area where everyone tolerates each other. So we do not understand why the treatment against us was biased – why a serious discussion on reparation was banned.
“We want to move forward in a meaningful way in our relationship with Lambeth.
“It was unacceptable. It was demeaning. There was no following of guidelines. Decisions were made according to bias.
“There are laws against these things. When the Government tried to ban Minister Farrakhan in 2001, they produced 10 quotes attributed to him – and could not produce any evidence he said them.
“For 30 years they have railed against him and besmirched his name but there has been no justification for it. I take responsibility for not having sued on his behalf. Because the media’s strategy has been this – to keep repeating the lies and it will become truth.
“They have a vested interest in stopping Minister Farrakhan from talking to black people about issues that affect us.”
The Nation – joint organisers with the Rastafarian Movement UK – was banned from staging the event, the fourth Africa International Day of Action (AIDA) on Reparations, in Kennington Park, on August 5, 2017.
Mr Farrakhan was to make a remote broadcast from the US – until the council’s community safety team and the Met said it could only be held if he did not address the event in any way.
The decision in the High Court has now cost up to £880,000 – Scotland Yard and the council were ordered to pay a combined £92,250 in damages, and each faces bills of £175,000 in legal costs. Mr Muhammad and 33 other attendees brought a claim against the force and council over the restrictions.
The former pupil of Efra Primary and Peckham Manor school – now Peckham Academy – added: “We were always confident we would prevail. Now everyone can see the extent of the injustice perpetrated against us.”
Talks are now expected to be held with the police and council over staging AIDA on August 1 this year. “The council has agreed to work with us going forward,” he said.
Martin Forde QC, for the claimants, outlined Mr Farrakhan’s speech was going to be about reparations, adding: “This discourse has been ongoing and it was thought that he could contribute to it.”
In written arguments, Mr Forde also said: “All of the claimants in this case are of black African descent, as were most of the audience.
“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 Metropolitan Police later accepted they had failed to balance the risks with the group’s rights.
James Berry, for the Met, said: “The Metropolitan Police Service has no desire to stifle speech on reparations.”
Rashid Nix, a radio presenter who was one of the 33 other claimants, said: “This decision was an affront to the entire black community.
“They decided black organisations could not hold a healing event. They spent so much money on this case – when they can’t open a library or spend more money on youth centres.”
Andre Clovis, solicitor for the 33, said: “The event was designed to celebrate black music and discuss issues affecting black people like reparation, but also crime, drugs, prison, education and mental health.
“The organisers were trying to find solutions to these problems. They deserve an apology.”
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “The council accepts that an error was made in the setting of conditions which prevented the broadcast of a speech by Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“The council accepts that the broadcast should have been permitted. Lambeth council is keen to move ahead in a positive spirit and will engage with the Nation of Islam following this litigation. While doing so, we reinforce and re-state our commitment to equality and equity and it is on that positive and clear basis that we now move forward.”
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