Veterans and Britons today rallied around a poppy seller who said he was punched and kicked by a mob at a pro-Palestine rally as he raised money for charity.
Motorcycle enthusiast Jim Henderson, 78, who says he served with the Army in Northern Ireland, was set upon while manning a Poppyscotland stall at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.
There has been uproar over the incident, with people sending messages of support for Mr Henderson, who told the Mail he served in the Royal Corps of Signals, 32 Signal Regiment during the Troubles.
One said today: ‘Dear Jim Henderson, just to let you know that I am wearing my poppy with pride, and as a tribute to all those servicemen from all countries, who fought for our right to be free. I wish you all the best.’
Mr Henderson is a familiar face in Scotland at veterans’ events.
During the pandemic there were poignant images of him alone, visiting the garden of remembrance in Princess Street Gardens in 2020 when all events cancelled due to Covid-19.
Social media footage shows the 78-year-old – in his distinctive red beret – trying to escape.
But the attack ended only when railway staff shoved the demonstrators away.
About 1,200 had descended on the station to protest against Israeli attacks in Gaza.
Police chiefs yesterday urged organisers to postpone another pro-Palestine protest, in London on Armistice Day.
Following Saturday’s ordeal, Mr Henderson said: ‘I was getting shoved backwards, in danger of falling, and one of them stood on my foot and split my toe.
‘So I thought I had got to get the money out of here. So I went down, and as I bent down someone punched me in the back. And then I got another punch in my side.’
He said that he managed to get up and was rescued by three ladies in red railway uniforms.
‘I’ve never known anything like it,’ he said.
‘Chanting. Saying it’s all about the British Government, British people, Jews.’
Mr Henderson insisted that he was attacked on purpose: ‘You don’t do that, and kick someone from behind and that was when I couldn’t get out of the way. That’s when I bent down and…bang.’
Cries of ‘ceasefire now’ and ‘Free Palestine’ drowned out rail service announcements during the demonstration.
Other protesters blew whistles, waved Palestinian flags and held up placards.
It was not the only example of poppy sellers being intimidated over the weekend. Several at Charing Cross station in London were surrounded by a gang of protesters.
Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said the poppy was not a political symbol and the protesters should have made their arguments elsewhere ‘without appearing to try to intimidate ordinary citizens trying to collect a bit of cash’.
Police eventually had to close Waverley Station while the protest there took place.