Hampstead councillor tells tube racist to ‘sit down and shut up’ after two Muslims are racially abused

Cllr Oliver Cooper Picture: Jessica Frank-Keyes

Cllr Oliver Cooper Picture: Jessica Frank-Keyes - Credit: Jessica Frank-Keyes

A Camden councillor says he hopes others will speak out against racism, as he faced down a man racially abusing two Muslims on a tube train on Sunday morning.

Cllr Oliver Cooper, who represents Hampstead Town was travelling from Belsize Park to Camden Town, when he became aware of a man in his 40s hurling abuse at two women wearing hijabs.

He said: "It was just as we left Chalk Farm. I was pretty zoned out to be honest. I suddenly clicked that this guy was shouting down the carriage at two women in hijabs. One of them moved down but the other stayed sitting."

The man was shouting to the women: "You're no f**king Muslims, you're not anything at all."

Cllr Cooper continued: "Usually I would have recorded it but I'd lost my phone the night before and was going to a friends to collect it. I told the man to sit down and be quiet.

"Everyone on the carriage did this very British thing of tutting, avoiding looking at him or engaging with him."

However the man who was white and about 5ft 10in tall, turned his aggression towards the 32-year-old.

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"He pushed me and started telling me he would f**k me up. He was spitting in my face. I kept saying 'No you're going to sit down and be quiet'. Eventually he did."

According to the councillor who was elected in 2015, this happened for the entire journey between Chalk Farm and Camden Town. He got off the train with the two women and unsuccessfully tried to find a staff member to help them.

"I felt it was my duty to step in. I hope it encourages others to stand up against racism. I've done it before, but it was the first time I felt in danger. I thought I was going to get punched or head butted.

"You can understand why people don't want to intervene and not be involved in this, especially with the way he responded to me with violent intimidation and spitting in my face."

Cllr Cooper also told this newspaper that he doesn't believe hate crime on public transport is any worse than it has been in the past. Since the EU referendum hate crime has only dipped below pre-election campaign levels for five months since June 2016, according to the Metropolitan Police.

"I don't know that in my experience whether it is getting worse in the 25-years I've been using the tube. It's becoming less prevalent. What we do know is that historically the reported incidents are a fraction of what actually takes place.

"The increases are generally a reflection that the police are much more trusted, and people feel more able to report those crimes."

A British Transport Police spokesperson said: "BTP were called to Camden Town station at 12.20pm on September 1 following a report of racial abuse and an assault. A man is reported to have racially abused two women; he then shouted at and pushed a man who intervened. Enquiries into the incident and efforts to identify the suspect are ongoing."