Police arrested two men after a brawl broke out at a Gaza demonstration in Sheffield when members of the Kurdish community mistook a black flag held by protesters for the banner of ISIS.
South Yorkshire Police said a group of demonstrators were holding a Palestinian flag bearing a declaration of the Islamic faith. Clashes occurred at Saturday’s protest after Kurdish residents mistook the flag for the Islamic State banner.
Police intervened when members of the city’s Kurdish community approached the demonstrators and tore up the flag, provoking the brawl. Witnesses believe the two men arrested were Kurdish.
Sarwat Jaf, a Kurdish refugee who left Iraq in 2006, told The Times: “They said they were helping the Palestinians and they waved a Palestinian flag, but after that they brought the ISIS flag as well. The Kurdish people did not want that. They said terrorists are killing people in Kurdistan.”
Footage that Jaf recorded on his smartphone shows the streets lined with police officers in the aftermath of the clash. He said the group accused of holding the flag should not have been walking through a part of the city where many Arab and Kurd refugees live.
South Yorkshire Police confirmed that arrests had been made.
“The organizers of the demonstration were pro-Palestinian and were flying the Palestinian flag and a black flag that bears the Islamic declaration of faith,” a police spokesman said.
“This was mistaken for a flag representing the militant group ISIS by some local Kurdish residents who took offence. The Gaza demonstrators were adamant that no offence was meant. Overall, the demonstration was peaceful.”
A black flag, bearing white Arabic inscriptions similar to those flown by jihadists, was recently seen mounted at the entrance of a housing estate in Canary Wharf’s East London, provoking outcry on social media.
Following the incident, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said it was “extremely inappropriate” to fly an Islamic jihadist flag in the UK, especially at this time "when British lives are at risk – particularly in terms of terrorism from the jihad."
Islamic State supports were also recently seen handing out leaflets in central London calling on Muslims to pledge religious allegiance to their cause. One urges Muslims to “spread the Khalifah [Caliphate] across the world” by creating a new Islamic State, ruled by an imam under Sharia law.
The government has become increasingly alarmed by the number of UK citizens travelling to fight alongside extremists in Syria and Iraq. Stopping the rise of homegrown terror cells that could strike against Britain is chief among the government’s concerns.
Last month, British nationals fighting for a Sunni militant group warned that terror attacks, 9/11-style bombings and violent murders of UK citizens would come to the streets of London.