Several arrests have been made following allegations of racist abuse in a Tyneside community.
Police in Gateshead stepped up patrols in the Bensham and Saltwell area, home to around 5,000 Jews, amid fears Jews could be targeted because of events in Gaza in the Middle East.
Officers received reports of abuse towards members of the Jewish community on Bewick Road, and windows at a Jewish building were damaged last Friday. Two boys, aged 14 and 15, were arrested for affray and racially-aggravated criminal damage. Then on Sunday night, there were reports of a man driving on Coatsworth Road shouting abuse. An 18-year-old male youth was arrested for racially-aggravated harassment.
As violence escalates in Gaza, police have been keeping a watchful eye on the community but they say neither of the incidents appear to be related the conflict.
Gateshead Central Neighbourhood Inspector, Peter Storey said: “The first incident involved two local boys shouting racial abuse at Jewish students and breaking a window of a Jewish building. The second was someone shouting abuse as they went by in a car. These are infrequent offences which happen in the Gateshead area from time to time. But they are in no way, shape or form connected with the events in Gaza. It is disorder that got out of hand. We have got extra patrols in the area but no-one in the community has change their patterns or behaviour. It is business as usual.”
It is understood that the victims of the abuse were pupils at local Jewish schools. Mrs Bas, of the Gateshead Hebrew Congregation, said the abuse had been frightening.
She said: “I didn’t actually see anything but I’ve heard exactly what happened. In the first incident, a group of girls from the college were just passing by when they all of a sudden were chased and had abuse shouted at them. The people chasing them broke windows, including some car windows.
“It’s frightening, really, and it must have been particularly frightening for the girls involved. In the second incident, some people started fighting with a group of boys from the college. It really must be made clear that this sort of racial behaviour is not going to be tolerated.”