Police issue 'fake news' warning after 'untrue' claims made in wake of Smethwick disorder

Police have asked residents to be "mindful" of online fake news which has circulated around the disorder outside a Hindu temple in Smethwick.

On Tuesday, 150 people gathered outside the Durga Bhawan Temple and fireworks and missiles were thrown at police officers.
On Tuesday, 150 people gathered outside the Durga Bhawan Temple and fireworks and missiles were thrown at police officers.

On Tuesday, 150 people gathered outside the Durga Bhawan Temple where fireworks and missiles were thrown at police officers.

Since then, the force has seen several "unsubstantiated claims" circulating online which have led to racial abuse.

One of the incorrect claims was that a shopkeeper in the Dudley area was involved in the protests, leading to him being racially abused. Two people have now been arrested for racially aggravated pupil order offences.

There were also rumours that two young men were attacked in Oldbury during a protest. However, West Midlands Police said: "We’ve had no reports of this happening."

A picture of a police officer at a mosque is also being used to suggest police bias, but the force has said: "This is not true, and the image was taken at the start of this month during a routine visit by officers in Birmingham."

Furthermore, rumours that coaches from other parts of the region were planning to arrive in the West Midlands on Wednesday night to cause problems were false, and this did not happen.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said: "This week we’ve seen protest groups gathering in Smethwick and Coventry.

"Last night (22 September) we saw around 50 people gather near the Mandir (Hindu temple) in Stoney Stanton Road, Coventry.

"Officers engaged with the group and they were dispersed using special powers which were granted to us. No arrests were made.

"On Tuesday (20 September) around 150 people gathered in Smethwick which resulted in some minor disorder. One person was arrested, he has since been released with no further action.

"The reasons surrounding the protests are complex but we are working closely with community leaders to understand and manage the issues.

"We continue to ask you to be mindful of misinformation and rumour on social media. This can have a serious impact on communities. Please only share information you know to be true, if you are unsure, please do not share it.

"We have seen several incidences fake news and unsubstantiated claims being spread widely online and through messaging apps. We will continue to monitor and keep you informed of any further fake news or unsubstantiated claims that are being shared.

"We also will not tolerate social media being used to commit hate crime offences.

"We have local officers on the streets, and are engaging with faith leaders and other key stakeholders in our communities, to keep us informed and better understand how people are feeling.

"Feel free to talk to them if you need to, or contact us via Live Chat or by calling 101 if you have concerns.

"We have appropriate policing plans in place to deal with any further incidents should they occur, and will continue to closely monitor what is happening."

On Friday morning, a 37-year-old man from Birmingham handed himself in on suspicion of publishing material with intent to incite religious hatred. Police have said he will be questioned in due course.

It came after a criminal investigation was launched into a widely shared video appearing to show a man making threats.

Any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice towards people because of their faith, race, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity is a hate crime.

A further video has been identified and is currently being assessed.

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