Police arrest preacher, 64, and grab his Bible... for promoting Christianity: Pastor accused of hate speech for 'racist' comments about Islam wins £2,500 payout from Scotland Yard
By BEN ELLERY FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY PUBLISHED: 17:28 EDT, 27 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:29 EDT, 27 July 2019
- Oluwole Ilesanmi, 64, was preaching outside Southgate Tube station in London
- A passer-by had earlier called police and accused Mr Ilesanmi of hate speech
- He was approached by two police officers, arrested and had his Bible taken away
- One officer then said: ‘You should’ve thought about that before being racist'
A Christian street preacher who had his Bible wrested from him as he was handcuffed and taken away by police has been awarded £2,500 for wrongful arrest.
Oluwole Ilesanmi, 64, has welcomed the payout by the Metropolitan Police as a victory for freedom of speech after he had been wrongly accused of Islamophobia.
The former dentist was preaching outside Southgate Tube station in North London in February when he was approached by two officers.
A passer-by had earlier called police and accused Mr Ilesanmi of hate speech.
He admits to having described Islam as an ‘aberration’ but insists he was simply expressing his point of view as a Christian rather than denigrating Muslims.
One of the police officers claimed Mr Ilesanmi was disturbing the peace, saying: ‘No one wants to hear that. They want you to go away.’
A video of the incident taken by a passer-by shows the policeman taking the Bible away, to Mr Ilesanmi’s visible distress.
One of the officers then says: ‘You should’ve thought about that before being racist.’
He was handcuffed before the officer gave a thumbs-up to the camera. Mr Ilesanmi was then bundled into a police car and driven several miles away. There the grandfather was ‘de-arrested’ and let out of the car.
A video of the incident taken by a passer-by shows the policeman taking the Bible away, to Mr Ilesanmi’s visible distress. One of the officers then says: ‘You should’ve thought about that before being racist'
However, he was not carrying any money and it was only thanks to the kindness of a stranger who gave him the necessary bus fare that he was able to get back.
Scotland Yard has now agreed to pay Mr Ilesanmi £2,500 for wrongful arrest and his humiliating and distressing treatment.
Mr Ilesanmi told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I believe God loves everyone, including Muslims, but I have the right to say I that I don’t agree with Islam – we are living in a Christian country, after all.
‘I was upset when they took away my Bible. They just threw it in the police car. They would never have done that if it had been the Koran. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?’
The incident was captured on camera by Ambrosine Shitrit, who was passing when she saw Mr Ilesanmi debating with a Muslim man who she said was becoming aggressive.
She said: ‘The preacher was fearless, but if I hadn’t started filming he would have been attacked. He was not breaching the peace and in no way had he been Islamophobic. I would’ve been the first person to have said something if he had been.’
Ms Shitrit’s footage was posted online and has since been viewed ten million times.
Police first claimed they had driven Mr Ilesanmi just 200 yards away. But when the Christian Legal Centre took up Mr Ilesanmi’s case, staff found his bus ticket, which showed he had been taken much further.
The Met now admit it was more than four miles away but insist he was offered a lift back but he refused.
The case was raised in Parliament and a petition with 38,000 signatures calling for greater religious freedom for Christian street pastors will be delivered to Government next week.
The payout for Mr Ilesanmi, who moved to the UK from Nigeria in 2010 as a Protestant missionary, includes compensation for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment, aggravated damages for exceptional harm and humiliating and distressing treatment, and recognition for the potential psychological trauma experienced during the arrest.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘Despite laws that theoretically support the freedom to preach in public, in practice police officers are quick to silence preachers at the first suggestion that a member of the public is offended.’
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘The Met respects and upholds the rights of all individuals to practise freedom of speech, and this includes street preachers of all religions and backgrounds.
‘However, if the language someone uses is perceived as being a potential hate crime, it is only right that we investigate. In this case, it was deemed appropriate to remove the man from the area.’