The brave poppy seller ‘punched and attacked’ by pro-Palestine mob: How British veteran, 78, served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles before he was ‘attacked by pro-Gaza activists’ while fundraising at Edinburgh Waverley
Veterans and Britons today rallied around a poppy seller who said he was punched and kicked by a mob at a pro-Palestine rally as he raised money for charity.
Jim Henderson, who says he served with the Army in Northern Ireland, was set upon while manning a Poppyscotland stall at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.
There has been uproar over the incident, with people sending messages of support for Mr Henderson, who told the Mail he served in the Royal Corps of Signals, 32 Signal Regiment during the Troubles.
One said today: ‘Dear Jim Henderson, just to let you know that I am wearing my poppy with pride, and as a tribute to all those servicemen from all countries, who fought for our right to be free. I wish you all the best’.
Mr Henderson is a familiar face in Scotland at veterans’ events. During the pandemic there were poignant images of him alone, visiting the garden of remembrance in Princess Street Gardens in 2020 when all events cancelled due to Covid-19.
Poppy-seller Jim Henderson, 78, said he was kicked and punched at Edinburgh Waverley on Saturday
Social media footage shows the 78-year-old trying to escape
Signals veteran Jim Henderson pays tribute to those who died during war as they visit the garden of remembrance in Princess Street Gardens on November 4, 2020
Social media footage shows the 78-year-old – in his distinctive red beret – trying to escape. But the attack ended only when railway staff shoved the demonstrators away. About 1,200 had descended on the station to protest against Israeli attacks in Gaza.
Police chiefs yesterday urged organisers to postpone another pro-Palestine protest, in London on Armistice Day.
Following Saturday’s ordeal, Mr Henderson said: ‘I was getting shoved backwards, in danger of falling, and one of them stood on my foot and split my toe.
‘So I thought I had got to get the money out of here. So I went down, and as I bent down someone punched me in the back. And then I got another punch in my side.’
He said that he managed to get up and was rescued by three ladies in red railway uniforms. ‘I’ve never known anything like it,’ he said.
‘Chanting. Saying it’s all about the British Government, British people, Jews.’
Mr Henderson insisted that he was attacked on purpose: ‘You don’t do that, and kick someone from behind and that was when I couldn’t get out of the way. That’s when I bent down and…bang.’
Cries of ‘ceasefire now’ and ‘Free Palestine’ drowned out rail service announcements during the demonstration.
Other protesters blew whistles, waved Palestinian flags and held up placards.
It was not the only example of poppy sellers being intimidated over the weekend. Several at Charing Cross station in London were surrounded by a gang of protesters.
Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said the poppy was not a political symbol and the protesters should have made their arguments elsewhere ‘without appearing to try to intimidate ordinary citizens trying to collect a bit of cash’.
Police eventually had to close Waverley Station while the protest there took place.
Mr Henderson (pictured wearing a red beret) insisted he was attacked on purpose
Cries of ‘ceasefire now’ and ‘Free Palestine’ drowned out rail service announcements
Protesters blew whistles, waved Palestinian flags and held up placards which said ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Boycott Apartheid Israel’
About 1,200 people descended on the station to protest against Israeli attacks in Gaza
In another incident, an individual was arrested for broadcasting anti-Semitic comments in London. And four officers were injured near Trafalgar Square by masked activists who aimed fireworks at them.
Scotland Yard bosses have called for the protest on this Saturday’s Armistice Day to be called off amid concerns that splinter groups intent on violence will clash with counter-protesters and cause chaos in the centre of the capital.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman welcomed the Met’s stance, doubling down on her description of the demonstrators as ‘hate marchers’ and describing their behaviour as ‘thuggish’.
But it appears the demonstration, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other partners, will go ahead – marking five consecutive weekends of action.
Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said: ‘To plan these sorts of protests in and around Armistice Day is provocative, it’s disrespectful.
Scotland’s SNP first minister Humza Yousaf insisted it was unacceptable to describe the pro-Palestinian events as hate marches and said he supported the march in London going ahead
Home Secretary Suella Braverman doubled down on her description of the demonstrators as ‘hate marchers’ and describing their behaviour as ‘thuggish’
The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which is usually attended by members of the Royal Family, will take place on Saturday, with a two-minute silence at 11am
‘Should memorials be desecrated or should we see some of the instances of racial hatred for which there were arrests at the weekend be expressed on these days, I think that would be an affront to the British public.’
Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, whose father fought in the British Army during the Second World War and helped liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, also criticised the planned march.
‘I call upon all decent human beings to object to the march and ban it,’ he told TalkTV. ‘Because the symbol of that day is a symbol of victory and it’s a symbol of doing good. Because when you fight evil, sometimes you have to fight. You have to fight evil in order to uproot evil.’
Scotland’s SNP first minister Humza Yousaf insisted it was unacceptable to describe the pro-Palestinian events as hate marches and said he supported the march in London going ahead.
Scotland Yard says it has seen an escalation in violence linked to the protests and has made more than 160 arrests related to the Hamas-Israel conflict since October 7. Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has the option to write to the Home Secretary and ask her to approve a ban on a protest if there is a risk of serious disorder.
Organisers of the Armistice Day march have pledged to keep the route away from Whitehall and the Cenotaph
Mrs Braverman met police chiefs yesterday to discuss how forces should respond should protests continue in the coming weeks
New work by the Home Office will consider whether legislation may be required to bridge the gap between countering hate speech and dealing with terrorism
The force has so far decided against this course of action, though it remains open if attempts to broker a compromise with organisers remain unsuccessful.
Deputy assistant commissioner Ade Adelekan last night repeated pleas to leaders to reconsider.
‘The risk of violence and disorder linked to breakaway groups is growing,’ he said. ‘This is of concern ahead of a significant and busy weekend. Our message to organisers is clear: Please, we ask you to urgently reconsider. It is not appropriate to hold any protests in London this weekend.’
Organisers of the Armistice Day march have pledged to keep the route away from Whitehall and the Cenotaph, and will not commence the demonstration until 12.45pm.
That is almost two hours after the holding of the two-minute silence to commemorate soldiers killed in the First World War and other conflicts.
Dismayed British Royal Legion poppy sellers could only look on after pro-Palestine protesters engaged in a sit-in protest at Charing Cross station
Police scuffle with pro-Palestinian protesters near Piccadilly Circus on Saturday during the latest ‘day of action’ since Hamas’ terror attack in Israel on October 7
Police arrest a man who allegedly carried a sign that bore a threat to blow up the House of Lords on Saturday
The planned route will take them from Hyde Park – about a mile from the Cenotaph – to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames. But there are fears groups could splinter from the main crowd and clash with Right-wing counter-protesters who plan to surround the Cenotaph.
Mrs Braverman met police chiefs yesterday to discuss how forces should respond should protests continue in the coming weeks.
The meeting – also attended by security minister Tom Tugendhat, police minister Chris Philp and ministers from the justice and defence departments – looked at the ‘risk of further escalation’. It focused in particular on how police officers should respond, coming after Sir Mark in recent weeks called for greater police powers.
READ MORE: How ‘Day of Action’ turned ugly: Dismayed poppy sellers surrounded by pro-Palestinian protesters, a crowd chanting ‘shame on you’ at child leaving McDonald’s and tube passengers shouting ‘smash the Zionist state’ – as Met makes 29 arrests
The Mail reported last week that Mrs Braverman had ordered a review of terrorism and extremism laws that could lead to broader powers to control pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
New work by the Home Office will consider whether legislation may be required to bridge the gap between countering hate speech and dealing with terrorism.
However any changes would be unlikely to reach the statute book by the end of next year.
The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which is usually attended by members of the Royal Family, will take place on Saturday, with a two-minute silence at 11am.
Remembrance Sunday events will take place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall the following day.
Mr Henderson was a volunteer for Poppyscotland, which said: ‘While we respect the rights of people to protest within the law, the safety and welfare of our volunteers is of paramount importance.
‘Our volunteer is safe and well, and we thank those that took the time to escort him out of the station.’
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