Metropolitan police pay £2,500 to Oluwole Ilesanmi after snatching Bible from his hand
A Christian street preacher who had his Bible confiscated as he was handcuffed by police has been awarded £2,500 for wrongful arrest.
A video of Oluwole Ilesanmi pleading with a police officer to “not take my Bible away” has been viewed millions of times since his arrest in February.
Ilesanmi was detained outside Southgate tube station in Enfield, north London, by Metropolitan police officers after he was accused of Islamophobia by a passerby.
The Christian admitted describing Islam as an “aberration” but said he was simply expressing his opinion rather than preaching hate against Muslims.
Footage of the arrest showed Ilesanmi, 64, being told by an officer that he was “causing problems, disturbing people’s days” and that “no one wants to hear that. They want you to go away.”
The video shows a police officer snatching a Bible from Ilesanmi’s hand, as the preacher says: “No, no, no, no, no. Don’t take my Bible away.” One of the officers then says: “You should’ve thought about that before being racist.”
Ilesanmi was led away to a police car and driven three and a half miles away to a bus stop where he was de-arrested.
Ilesanmi said on Sunday he had been awarded £2,500 for wrongful arrest for his humiliating and distressing treatment. He told the Mail on Sunday: “I believe God loves everyone, including Muslims, but I have the right to say I that I don’t agree with Islam – we are living in a Christian country, after all.
“I was upset when they took away my Bible. They just threw it in the police car. They would never have done that if it had been the Koran. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?”
Ilesanmi will on Tuesday hand a petition to the Home Office asking for greater protection for street preachers. The campaign, which is being supported by the group Christian Concern, has been signed more than 38,000 times.
A Scotland Yard spokewoman said: “The MPS has reached a settlement with a man arising from an incident on 23 February near to Southgate Underground station. It would not be appropriate to discuss further details of this.”
Supt Neil Billany, of the force, said: “The Met respects and upholds the rights of all individuals to practice freedom of speech, and this includes street preachers of all religions and backgrounds.
“However, if the language someone uses is perceived as being a potential hate crime, it is only right that we investigate.
“That is the role of the police, even if a decision is subsequently made that their actions are not criminal. In this case, it was deemed appropriate to remove the man from the area.”