Owen Jones, the left-wing journalist who was attacked on Friday night by a group of men outside a pub in north London, has talked about the attack and explained how he believed he was specifically targeted because of his politics.
Talking to the Today programme on Radio 4 on Monday, he said: “It was my birthday drinks and me and a group of friends went for a nightcap at a pub with a late license. We were there for about 45 minutes, a group of about six of us left, and we were about 30 metres away [when] a group of men charged - it was very premeditated, very targeted, with military precision directed at me.”
Jones, who writes for The Guardian, continued: “There was a group of six of us, they had to go between us [to get to me], they directed a flying kick at my back, dragged me to the ground, and carried on kicking or attempting to kick me. Without my friends, who I love very much, I have no idea what would have happened because they had to fend them off, and three of them were punched in the head as a consequence and then [the men] scarpered off.”
Asked why he thought it was a hate crime, Jones answered: “I think it was a hate crime ... because I have had evidence since of their links - I have to be careful because there's an ongoing police investigation - potentially to the far right. The broader point is, as far as my friends were concerned, this was waiting to happen.
“In the last year I've been systematically and deliberately targeted by far-right activists. In December last year I was abused while on air by Tommy Robinson supporters who chased after me yelling traitor and all the rest of it.”
“The same thing happened in January including James Goddard, a far-right activist who famously harassed Anna Soubry,” he said. Goddard was found guilty in June of assault in connection with an incident during a demonstration in Manchester.
Jones added: “A few days after that in Trafalgar Square I was mobbed [at a demonstration] by far-right activists yelling homophobic abuse, who attempted to punch me in the face, spat at me in the face.
“A few weeks ago a British far-right activist who founded the British arm of Pegida [a German anti-immigrant organisation], a former soldier, posted pictures of me at a pub saying along the lines of 'We know where you are, we will find you, we know your address and I will draw on my skills as a soldier' and there's been a general escalation of threats of violence and death.”
Pressed as to why he was the target of the far right, Jones said: “I’m targeted because I’m the antithesis of what they stand for: I’m gay, I’m a socialist, I’m involved in anti-fascist organisations. Tommy Robinson and others repeatedly use their online platforms to attack me on that basis. Anti-fascists activists tell me that groups talk about me obsessively online.”
Widening his point, Jones said “this isn’t just about me: I’m a white guy with a media platform. There are minorities being attacked by these people who don’t get on the Today programme or appear in headlines. We’ve got the rise of the far-right on both sides of the Atlantic, in Europe, Britain and the US.
They’ve killed a Labour MP Jo Cox in this country, they attempted to kill another Labour MP Rosie Cooper, they’ve ploughed into a mosque - that terrorist wanted to kill Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan - there have been multiple foiled far-right terror plots.”
Jones claimed that the far-right have been legitimised and emboldened by mainstream politicians and the media, and called for newspapers and organisations like the BBC to be aware of the effects their coverage has.