A council meeting descended into chaos as protesters stormed the chamber during a debate on anti-Semitism.
“Frightened” councillors were forced out of the room and left in tears due to the angry protest from far-left campaigners, one of whom had to be dragged from the chamber by security.
The protest – led by the revolutionary communist Fight Racism Fight Imperialism group – was opposing Newcastle City Council’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which they claimed would “criminalise solidarity with Palestine in Newcastle”.
After Lib Dem opposition deputy leader Nick Cott raised the motion to adopt the definition, protesters in the public gallery above began chanting, unfurled Palestinian flags, and shouted abuse at councillors.
As councillors left the room, one man broke into the main council chamber and was dragged away by security as Lord Mayor David Down tried to calm the protesters down.
It was claimed that one member of the civic centre’s security staff was put into a headlock by the demonstrators, some of whom were led away by police.
Afterwards, council leader Nick Forbes labelled them “clowns” who “don’t do anything to further the cause of the Palestinians”.
He said: “We are used to heated debate, but the protest we saw in the gallery tonight, the alleged assault of security staff, the shouting of abuse at councillors, the ranting, and the jumping into the council chamber goes beyond what I think anybody would accept as normal political debate.
“Many of the councillors tonight felt intimidated, several were in tears during the interval we had and were frightened to come back into the council chamber.
“That is, in effect, an assault on our democracy.
“We will not put up with that and I really hope the police throw the book at these clowns. They don’t do anything to represent people, they don’t do anything to further the cause of the Palestinians.
“They are simply out to cause trouble and that is not acceptable in a modern, liberal democracy.”
Before the meeting, a few dozen protesters had gathered outside the civic centre for a rally and also presented a petition to the full council meeting.
One, Luke Meehan, told the chamber that “the state of Israel is a racist state and saying so is not anti-Semitic”, saying that his views were “not informed by hatred” of Jewish people but by “solidarity with the people of Palestine”.
On Tuesday, the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition , amid a bitter row over anti-Semitism within the party.
Introducing his motion to council on Wednesday, Coun Cott said that “we need to call time on the acceptability of anti-Semitism”.
He added: “Representatives of the Jewish community in Newcastle are fearful of the future, and our approving this motion -unambiguously, with the intended wording – will be an assurance to them that this Council will not tolerate discrimination.”
When councillors returned to the chamber after around 25 minutes, Coun Forbes seconded the motion – having agreed to drop an amendment he had proposed – and it was passed unanimously.
Coun Forbes told the chamber that adopting the IHRA motion would “show we understand the upset and hurt that many people in our Jewish communities feel”.