A journalist who tried to attend a public event featuring Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he was “carried out like a sack of potatoes” by two security guards after having his ticket cancelled.
McDonnell took part in a “head-to-head” discussion last night at a London hotel with Jewish Voice for Labour co-chairman Jenny Manson, who hopes to become a prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour.
McDonnell is a supporter of Manson’s parliamentary candidacy. Jewish Voice for Labour is a pro-Corbyn group for Jewish party members.
Freelance Etan Smallman, who writes features for national newspapers including the i, Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Mail, attended the meeting in a personal capacity as a constituent of Finchley and Golders Green.
The meeting was held in Cricklewood, within the constituency borders.
However, less than 24 hours before the event, Smallman, along with journalists from the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News, received emails saying their tickets had been cancelled as they did not have media accreditation.
A spokesperson for Manson’s campaign team, which organised the event, said the journalists should have applied for media accreditation alongside the tickets, but Ben Weich of the Chronicle told Press Gazette he did not recall seeing an option to do this on the online booking page.
Smallman had not sought accreditation because he was not attending in a professional capacity and had not been commissioned to write about the event.
Weich and Jenni Frazer of the News both wrote about the ban yesterday, resulting in the decision being overturned.
Seeing those reports, Smallman assumed his ticket would also have been reinstated and turned up to the event.
He had also replied to the email first thing yesterday morning asking to be given media accreditation if that was the only way he could attend, even though he was not asking for interviews or photos.
Smallman told Press Gazette: “I went to the event and my name was on the list but next to my name was the word cancelled in capital letters and I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed in and I spoke to at least three organisers all of whom said they had no knowledge and couldn’t give me any explanation.
“Security were told to usher me out and I was manhandled out of the building.”
Smallman re-entered the lobby of the hotel where the event was being held a few minutes later and said he spoke to Manson’s daughter, on the campaign team, who told him to wait while she found out what was going on.
“Within a few seconds”, he said, “another organiser told the security guards again to take me out.
“I said that I had been told by the organiser’s daughter to wait patiently in the lobby for an explanation so that’s what I was doing.
“I was picked up with the security guards on either side of me and physically lifted off the floor and taken out the building while another organiser said the reason was that my ticket had been rescinded by the Labour Party.”
The Labour Party has said it had no involvement in organising the event.
Weich, who was interviewing Smallman at the time of his removal from the venue, confirmed to Press Gazette that “two big security guards” had “basically grabbed him and dragged him out and threw him out into the cold”. He also took a picture of the encounter (pictured).
Frazer also tweeted that Smallman had been “physically manhandled off the premises”, describing him as both a journalist and a potential voter in the constituency. “How can that possibly be acceptable?” she asked.
Smallman told Press Gazette: “As far as I’m concerned I should have been allowed in with a ticket, which I have, either as a constituent or if they were determined to consider me a journalist, then as a journalist.
“I have a press card if that was their criteria, so I don’t see either one as a reason to cancel my ticket.”
A spokesperson for Manson’s campaign team said: “All journalists who did not request prior accreditation to attend the event as clearly stipulated on our Eventbrite page had their tickets returned and any payments fully refunded.
“It is normal procedure for organisers of important events to request that press seek accreditation beforehand and to turn away those who haven’t. We did not have time to process requests made on the day, though we did accommodate some where we could.”
Responding to the claims of manhandling by security guards, the spokesperson said: “The hotel’s management assigned licensed and fully trained security guards to ensure their duty of care towards all guests and visitors in their premises.
“I cannot comment on this specific case as I was not present at the door myself, but from the reports back and debriefs I have had so far, I can state that, as far as we are aware, all security personnel, and our own volunteers behaved and acted in a professional and irreproachable manner.
“We are very thankful for their hard work and for the manner in which they conducted themselves despite clear provocations from a very small but threatening and disruptive group of protestors, one of whom physically assaulted one of the security workers.”
On Twitter, Jewish Voice for Labour said accredited journalists and “many Jews” were attending the event.
The group added: “Only a few individuals with a record of disrupting meetings have been banned.”
A spokesperson for the group told Press Gazette the list of people who had signed up for the event was “looked at very carefully” for security reasons.
“People whose names were recognised were knocked off the list and if people gave false names or there was something dodgy about their applications they would have been definitely turned away,” she said.
Three weeks ago a Jewish Voice for Labour film screening at the party’s conference in Liverpool was evacuated due to a bomb threat.
The group has faced criticism from other Jewish Labour groups for its refusal to condemn alleged anti-Semitism within the party under Corbyn’s leadership. It has claimed that such allegations, when unjustified by actual evidence, damage the work of dealing with real anti-Semitism
As well as the journalists affected, a number of members of the public, largely activists, also had their tickets cancelled ahead of last night’s event, which saw protesters gather outside and an attempt to burn an Israeli flag.
But Smallman said: “I have no record of disrupting anything and I therefore should have been allowed in either as a constituent or as a journalist, if that’s how they wanted to treat me.
“Also I wasn’t being disruptive, I wasn’t being rude, I was following the organiser’s daughter’s instructions to wait patiently in the lobby and I think there was no reason why I couldn’t have been provided with some kind of explanation rather than being carried out like a sack of potatoes by two security guards under the orders of the organisers.”
Picture: Ben Weich/Jewish Chronicle