Does a video show British police officers expressing support for a pro-Palestinian rally in London during the 2023 Hamas-Israel war? No, that's not true: London's Metropolitan Police told Lead Stories that the men in the footage were not their officers. The video captured people wearing bright yellow jackets with the insignia of Peace Officers UK, a group of COVID-19 deniers whose members have been fined previously for impersonating law enforcement.
No it can't be, can it!!! 🇬🇧
The graphics added over the footage continued:
Humanity unites us
This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:
After that, the camera zoomed in on two men in the background. One of them showed a peace sign. Both wore what appeared to be police uniforms.
The footage then cut to another man, also showing a peace sign, in the same bright yellow jacket.
A representative of the London Metropolitan Police's Press Bureau told Lead Stories via email on November 10, 2023:
The people showing peace signs aren't officers.
The email continued:
It's some sort of internet stunt I think but they're not our officers.
The choice of the audio track -- "Palestina Menangis" ("Palestine Is Crying") -- further implied a connection to the 2023 Hamas-Israel conflict.
As the composite image below demonstrates, both the Google Street View of this address and the footage on social media show a number of matching unique identifiers. Two stores, Life Pharmacy and Links, are seen in the same order. The same black strip and glass door separate the two retail outlets. The stores' exteriors are identical to what was seen in the video.
(Sources, left to right: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 22:50:25 2023 UTC; Google Street View screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 22:56:27 2023 UTC; TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 21:45:29 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)
Both Google Street View and the footage capture a Swarovski store to the left of the pharmacy:
(Sources, left to right: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 22:51:44 2023 UTC; Google Street View screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 22:56:27 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)
However, a close examination of the video shows that the word seen on the back of what look like police uniforms is not "police" but "peace":
(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 21:45:29 2023 UTC)
The same clip reposted on Facebook in a more blurred version referred to the men in the frame as "peace officers":
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 18:31:31 2023 UTC)
A search for the term "peace officer UK" across U.K.-based websites led to a page on Facebook with the same name. The page displays images of people in the same bright yellow jackets with the words "peace" or "polite" on it:
(Sources: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 19:10:45 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)
Unlike official law enforcement accounts, this page was created only in 2021. It did not contain links to government sites in its description. Instead, the account identified itself as:
A review of the page's activity showed a 2022 post about a Peace Officers UK appeal of a conviction for impersonating police officers:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 17:38:56 2023 UTC)
A search of news sites led to an archived October 26, 2021, report from Sussex World, a regional British news site. The article was entitled "Covid denying couple from Haywards Heath appear in Crawley court charged with dressing up as police." It discussed a case against David Stewart, 43, and Jessica Collins, 32.
People who came to support the couple also dressed up as law enforcement officers, another article added.
The Sussex World reported Stewart as emphasizing that the police uniforms do not mean that Collins and he are actual police: 'If anybody mistakes us as police, we always set them straight," he said.
A court fined the couple in March 2022 for impersonating the police, VICE reported.
The footage showing men in yellow jackets with the same "Peace" insignia also was used on X to highlight November 9, 2023, remarks by Home Secretary Suella Braverman about alleged police sympathy for pro-Palestinian sympathizers. (A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that Sunak's office had not approved Braverman's points.) The post on X has been deleted, but Lead Stories archived the image and caption:
(Source: X screenshot taken on Thu Nov 9 12:14:11 2023 UTC)
The image is a screenshot from the same video footage highlighted above: It does not show regular police, but Peace Officers UK activists.
Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about the 2023 Hamas-Israel conflict can be found here.