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Boris Johnson has slammed the ‘despicable harassment’ of Chris Whitty after two yobs followed him in a London park and got him in a headlock.
The Prime Minister said he condemns ‘the behaviour of these thugs’ and said public servants ‘should not have to face this kind of intimidation’.
Meanwhile Priti Patel said she was ‘horrified’ by the ‘appalling’ attack in St James’s Park on Sunday night.
The Home Secretary said it was important the Chief Medical Officer got the support he needed but refused to reveal if he will get personal protection.
A 16-second clip emerged last night of the moment the two men wrapped their arms around the epidemiologist’s head.
They cheer and yell as they tackle the top scientist while continuing to film his stunned reaction.
A Metropolitan Police squad van is seen in the background of the video but it is not clear if any officers were in there. Members of the public rounded on the force and asked why the men were only ‘spoken to’ and not arrested.
The attack also sparked calls for scientific officers to get the personal protection offered to senior politicians after they were launched into the limelight by the pandemic.
It is the second time Prof Whitty has been attacked this month after a man harassed him in the street in Oxford and accused him of lying about coronavirus.
He was also rounded on by a young thug in February, who uploaded his video to TikTok and was later scolded by his mother.
Meanwhile last week an anti-vaxxer protester filmed himself yelling abuse at Jonathan Van-Tam while accusing him of ‘genocide’ and lying to Britons.
This is the moment two thugs appear to grab government advisor Professor Chris Whitty and put him in a headlock as they harass him in a park as he grapples with them to get away
Chief Medical Officer for England Prof Chris Whitty is seen walking past the Department of Health and Social Care in London on Monday afternoon
Mr Johnson tweeted this morning: ‘I’m shocked at seeing the despicable harassment of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
‘I condemn the behaviour of these thugs. Our hard-working public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it.’
Ms Patel told Times Radio: ‘I’m just horrified by that, I really am. Chris is just a remarkable public servant, a man who has been leading the whole coronavirus response – nationally, yes, he has a high profile, and I think he’s an incredibly respected figure.
‘I’m horrified by what has happened to Chris and the police are actually involved as well and we’re also speaking to Chris to look at what we can do to support him, it’s just appalling.’
Asked if she thinks Prof Whitty needs security measures, she said: ‘I can’t speak about that but it’s important that we make sure that Chris is given the right kind of support.
‘It’s terrible to see such an important public figure, someone that day in, day out, has been serving our country in the way in which he has to keep us safe, being subject to just appalling abuse.’
The video shows the yobs cheering and yelling as they start their attack on the scientist. They both appear to be trying to restrain him as he struggles to get free from their grasps.
While one of the two thugs continues to yell at the camera, another can be heard shouting: ‘Please, sorry, one photo.’
Prof Whitty looks terrified throughout the clip as he tries to walk away from the men who repeatedly try to grab him and film him. As the video ends, a voice off camera can be heard saying: ‘Leave the gentleman alone.’
During the terrifying video, Prof Whitty looks concerned as he tries to escape their grasp while the thugs appear to laugh off his attempts
Politicians and public figures have slammed the attackers after the video was viewed more than half a million times online
Other politicians and public figures also slammed the attackers after the video was viewed more than half a million times online.
They called for an investigation into how the shocking incident could happen and for a greater protection for the country’s leading advisers.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted: ‘This is disgusting and these thugs must be found and charged. ‘Zero tolerance for harassing a public servant.’
Newly-appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘I’ve seen the video of the CMO being harassed. It’s appalling and totally unacceptable.
‘The CMO works tirelessly on behalf of the country. We will not tolerate this sort of behaviour towards our public servants. The men behaving in this disgraceful way should be ashamed.’
Labour MP Jess Phillips said Prof Whitty had been made to feel ‘awful and uncomfortable’ and issued a reminder that public figures ‘are human beings’.
She said: ‘Even if you perceive it as non violent it is clear that he felt awful and uncomfortable and resisted. Public figures are not dolls, they are human beings, it is stunning how easily this is forgotten.’
Schools minister Nick Gibb told Sky News he hoped the ‘whole weight of the law will come down on people that engage in that kind of behaviour’.
He said: ‘I think this thing is absolutely appalling and I’m sure all your viewers and the general public will absolutely condemn the behaviour of these yobs.
‘Chris Whitty has done a fantastic job throughout the pandemic in advising the government of the necessary measures to keep our NHS safe, to save lives.
‘He has been a very effective chief medical officer during that period and those scenes should not have happened.’
Asked if Prof Whitty should be afforded close protection, Mr Gibb said it was a ‘matter for the security services and for Chris Whitty’. He added: ‘Those scenes should never have occurred in our society – absolutely wrong.
‘People, whatever role they have in government, should be able to walk along the street, walk through the park unaccosted by that kind of behaviour. It should not happen in a free, law-abiding society like ours.’
Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal also weighed in on the incident and claimed the men ‘were radicalised by others’.
He posted: ‘I won’t share the Chris Whitty being abused video, but I know that if he was the statue of someone with a dubious past, he would have a dozen strong security detail.
‘The offenders were radicalised by others – they share the blame. This is just the latest incident of harassment involving the Chief Medical Advisor.’
NHS GP partner Dr Ayan Panja wrote: ‘Awful. Poor Chris Whitty. He remained calm and professional unlike his harassers who must be appropriately reprimanded.’
Piers Morgan branded the latest attack on the Chief Medical Officer ‘disgusting’. Presenter Adil Ray said on Twitter: ‘This is an utterly disgusting way to treat a person who has devoted his time to save our lives.
‘These complete and utter imbeciles must be found and dealt with. Meanwhile Boris Johnson please provide Chris Whitty with security.’
News presenter Simon McCoy added: ‘This is a complete disgrace. Chris Whitty should be protected from idiots like these.’
Channel 4 news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy shared the footage and wrote: ‘It should not be hard to identify the men harassing Chris Whitty in this video.’
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘We’re aware of a video being shared online showing an incident in St James’ Park on Sunday, June 27.
‘Officers spoke to all those involved at the time and their details were taken. We are in contact with the victim and the circumstances continue to be investigated.’
But social media users asked why the police squad van seen in the footage did not react to the attack. One said: ‘With a police van in the background? They were there.’
Another put: ‘If the attack on Professor Chris Whitty isn’t assault, what is? He was physically manhandled by a group of thugs, who clearly knew what they were doing (they noticed the Police Van), against his wishes, he looked scared.’
And one more added: ‘He is clearly distressed and there’s a police van in background, what were they doing just sitting in there laughing!’
Earlier this month, Professor Whitty was harassed in the street by a man accusing him of lying to the public about coronavirus. The thug, who appeared to film the video himself, went after the medical officer on a street in Oxford.
The government’s Chief Medical Advisor was shown walking briskly down a street as he was followed and bombarded with questions.
The man filming, believed to be Geza Tarjanyi, a family DJ and producer who has become known online for his activism against fracking and mask wearing.
Prof Whitty was leaving the G7 health summit at the university but the man says: ‘Hello Chris. Lying to the public again? You don’t represent us, you don’t represent the public.
‘Oxford-AstraZeneca right in the centre – what a surprise you’re here. Come speak to us Chris, come speak to the public – you’re the expert,’ the DJ is heard saying.
‘Is Bill Gates funding this?’ Mr Tarjanyi asks, after accusing the CMO of lying and after rattling off a variety of other unproven theories about the pandemic response.
Mr Whitty, wearing a suit and backpack while carrying a briefcase, is shown hurrying down the road away from the man filming and refusing to reply to his comments.
At one point, England’s CMO is shown stopping beside a police van to ask if the officers can stop the man following him.
‘These gentlemen don’t seem to want to leave me alone at all,’ Mr Whitty is heard saying to the officers in the van. But he quickly continues down the street away from the person holding the camera who continues following him.
‘Why are you lying to the public? Why is everything designed for the vaccine,’ Mr Tarjanyi is heard asking. He says ‘there is no covid’ and accuses Mr Whitty of manipulated the figures shown during No 10 press conferences.
He goes on to say he has been arrested ten times ‘because of your Covid lie, your experts’. He also accuses Professor Neil Ferguson, whose data modelling was key to the decision behind the UK’s first lockdown last year.
Mr Tarjanyi tells Mr Whitty that he has spoken to him on three occasions, and has ‘never been a threat what-so-ever’.
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, has been harassed in the street again by a man accusing him of lying to the public about coronavirus. Pictured: Still grabs from a video shared to Facebook that saw Mr Whitty confronted by a man in the street
The person filming the Oxford video, identified on Facebook as Geza Tarjanyi (pictured), is a family DJ and producer who has become known online for his activism against fracking, and against mask wearing and other public health covid measures during the pandemic
How Geza Tarjanyi has become known for his anti-lockdown protests
Geza David Tarjanyi – also known as Gayzer Frackman – is a family DJ and producer who has become known online for his activism against 5G mobile networks, fracking, mask wearing and other public health measures during the pandemic. The anti-vaxxer, 60, lives in Leyland, Lancashire, but has travelled around the UK over the past year to protest against Covid-19 lockdowns, including outside 10 Downing Street.
In recent weeks he has targeted key figures in the fight against the virus – including Jonathan Van-Tam in London and Chris Whitty in Oxford. In October 2020, he held an anti-lockdown protest in Durham which was attended by councillor Irene Hewitson, who claimed that Covid-19 is a ‘fake virus’ which does not exist and compared life under lockdown to ‘living in North Korea’.
Last September, Mr Tarjanyi lost an appeal to overturn a conviction for a public order offence after disrupting a performance staged by anti-fracking campaigners during the Lancashire Fringe festival in May 2019. Preston Magistrates’ Court heard he entered the performance area, filming and shouted comments at a group of women called ‘Nannas with Banners’.
He asks why he would flag down the police when he is being filmed like he is on the BBC and ITV.
‘But they’re safe hands aren’t they,’ Mr Tarjanyi is heard saying before the video – shared on Facebook by Piers Corbyn – cuts off, implying the two broadcasters are complicity in the conspiracy.
According to the Lancashire Post, Mr Tarjanyi lost a bid to overturn a conviction for a public order offence after he disrupted a performance by anti-fracking activists at the Lancashire Fringe Festival in May 2019.
Mr Tarjanyi, who at the time of his failed bid in October 2020 was 58, was said to have entered the performance area, filming and shouting abuse towards the performing women. At the time, he was said to be living in Leyland.
The first time Prof Whitty is believed to have been accosted in the street was in February by a young thug who put the video on TikTok.
The film showed the CMO saying hello to passers-by but he refuses to be goaded by the youth who films the scientist standing in a queue.
The yob says: ‘You’re a liar. Mandem is a liar. You lie about the Covid-19 cases man. Stop lying to the TV.’
At Westminster’s Strutton Ground market, the cameraman repeatedly called Prof Whitty a ‘liar’ while shoving the phone in Prof Whitty’s face.
At the time the epidemiologist dismissed the incident and later told a Downing Street briefing: ‘The odd young lad, showing off, occasionally happens.’
He added: ‘I’m sure he’ll become a model citizen in due course and hopefully more like Captain Tom, who is the kind of person who I think much more exemplifies the spirit of the UK.’
The youth was later told off by his mother, who told MailOnline she had confiscated his games console.
In February, a young man confronted Prof Whitty in Westminster and accused him of lying about the pandemic while filming a video on his phone for the social media site TikTok
Mr Tarjanyi, 60, of Leyland, Lancashire, also harassed Jonathan van Tam – the Deputy Chief Medical Officer – as he walked into the Ministry of Defence building last week.
He asked him ‘what was really in that needle that you put into Matt Hancock‘, in relation to Professor Van-Tam giving the Health Secretary his first Covid jab in April.
Asked about the abuse, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘People working to fight the pandemic and save lives, which is what Professor Van Tam is doing every single day, should never face that kind of appalling behaviour for doing their job.
‘The right to free speech is fundamental to our democracy but violence, threats or intimidation are absolutely never acceptable.’
Mr Tarjanyi has become known online for his activism against 5G mobile networks, fracking, mask wearing and other public health measures during the pandemic.
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Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was filmed being abused and accused of ‘genocide’ in London last week
Geza Tarjanyi (left), of Leyland, Lancashire, targeted the Deputy Chief Medical Officer (right) last week