The Metropolitan Police Service and the Lambeth London Borough Council must pay the Nation of Islam $130,000 in damages, England’s High Court of Justice ruled on Monday.
Justice Neil Stephen Garnham ruled that the two agencies conspired to prevent Minister Louis Farrakhan from giving a speech about slavery reparations in 2017. In doing so, the two groups violated the rights of 34 Black representatives of the U.K. Nation of Islam.
Farrakhan was set to deliver a remote speech at the 4th Africa International Day of Action event in August 2017 about the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the justifications for reparations. Police claimed the blocked they speech to prevent “disorder” but lawyers with the Nation of Islam disagreed.
Authorities placed restrictions on the permit for the event in Kennington Park to prevent Farrakhan from addressing the event via broadcast from the United States.
U.K. representative of the Nation of Islam Abdul Hakeem Muhammad and 33 other activists brought a claim against the police service and the council over the restrictions.
Martin Forde, an attorney for the activists, said before the court, “Those objections were purportedly based on concerns relating to public order, specifically disorder by those not associated with the event seeking to disrupt it.”
Forde also added that it was thought that Farrakhan could add to the ongoing conversation about reparations.
The High Court agreed with the plaintiffs that it was wrong for the Metropolitan Police to issue such a narrowly tailored permit to prevent Farrakhan from speaking. Doing so stifled the dialogue about reparations, therefore “unlawfully infringing” upon the activists’ rights under the Human Rights Act of 1998.
The leader of Lambeth Council, Jack Hopkins, stepped down from his position without providing a reason from his departure just hours after the ruling.
Originally, the Metropolitan Police said the speech was blocked over concern about counter protesters, but spokesperson James Berry later said the decision had more to do with Farrakhan’s “extreme views.”
The Nation of Islam leader has commonly been accused of anti-Semitism and has been criticized for his “anti-white theology,” as described by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In addition to $130,000 in damages, the groups must also collectively pay $250,000 in legal fees. According to Andre Clovis, an attorney for the plaintiffs, Lambeth City Council and the police have spent $2 million fighting the suit.