Guardian columnist Owen Jones has blamed politicians and the media for “legitimising and emboldening” far-right activists after he was the victim of an apparently targeted late-night attack.
The Labour activist has said he was set upon by a group of four men as he left a pub in Islington, north London, at about 2am on Saturday morning after celebrating his 35th birthday with friends.
“They kicked me in the back, I was knocked down, then they kicked me in the head and back,” Jones told the Guardian, adding that three of his friends were punched, including his partner, in the assault.
Jones told Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that he thought the attack had been clearly targeted at him.
He said: “We were about 30 metres away [from the pub] and a group of men charged. It was very premeditated, very targeted, with military precision directed at me.”
The Metropolitan Police has appealed for information about the “completely senseless attack on a man simply enjoying a night out with friends”.
Detective Sergeant Scott Barefoot added that the force is looking at the circumstances of the incident, including whether Jones was targeted for being gay.
CCTV footage is being reviewed and witness enquiries are currently underway, police have said. No arrests have been made.
Jones told Today he believes an incident like this was “waiting to happen” after a “general escalation of threats of violence and death” towards him by far-right activists in the past year.
In December the columnist was heckled and abused while taking part in an interview for Sky News on College Green in Westminster. The protesters then chased after him, calling him a “traitor” and hurling abuse.
Two similar incidents happened in January on College Green and at a demonstration in Trafalgar Square, while Jones said he has also been threatened online with a photo of him at a pub alongside the message: “We know where you are, we will find you, we know your address”.
Jones claimed far-right activists have been “legitimised and emboldened” by politicians like Donald Trump and by “much of the British media”, quoting recent headlines such as “enemies of the people,” “traitors” and “saboteurs”.
He also pointed to “the hatred ripped up against Muslims and migrants and the mainstreaming of far-right figures including by the BBC of Tommy Robinson”.
Guardian editor Katharine Viner said the newspaper deplores the “outrageous” attack on Jones, adding: “Violent assaults on journalists or activists have no place in a democratic society.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also sent his solidarity to Jones following the attack, adding: “Owen believes it was politically motivated, and we know the far right is on the march in our country.
“An attack on a journalist is an attack on free speech and our fundamental values.”
The Met Police has urged anyone with information about the attack to contact officers in Islington on 101 quoting CRIS 2720815/19 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Picture: Reuters/Simon Dawson