Tens of thousands sign petition supporting Tube driver suspended over Palestine chant

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition supporting a suspended Tube driver who led a chant of “free, free Palestine” on a London Underground train.

After around 100,000 protesters took part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London, footage posted online and then deleted by Open Democracy journalist Ruby Lott-Lavigna appeared to show the chant being led over the train’s speaker system.

After the uproar, the driver was quickly identified and suspended whilst TfL vowed to “fully investigate the incident in line with our policies and procedures”.

A petition started by passengers on the tube carriage called for TfL to reverse the suspension and uphold free speech has now hit nearly 70,000 signatures in just over 24 hours.

A statement on the petition said: “[The driver’s] actions were an expression of his personal feelings about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and a plea for peace.

“Unfortunately, this act of empathy and solidarity has put his job at risk, as it has allegedly violated company guidelines or policies.

“It is vital to uphold the principles of freedom of expression, compassion, and empathy for people enduring conflict, irrespective of personal beliefs or affiliations.”

One supporter wrote: “This is morally wrong I thought Britain was freedom of speech. The gentleman who was at work was doing an excellent job by interacting with his passengers and making them feel welcome on the tube.”

After leading a chorus of ‘No Justice, No Peace’ the driver instructed his cramped Central line passengers to chant: “Louder, please, louder”.

Before letting people off the carriage to join the protest, he finished: “Hope you all have a blessed day today and look after yourselves.”

Labour MP Diane Abbott has asked what would have happened if the chant had been about Ukraine (PA Wire)
Labour MP Diane Abbott has asked what would have happened if the chant had been about Ukraine (PA Wire)

One serving Tube driver, speaking anonymously, told The Independent that his colleagues were divided on the issue.

He said: “A Central line colleague says the driver is an English guy, and a non-Muslim.

“Some drivers are now taking political sides saying it is a double standard from TfL.

“They are penalising this guy for saying ‘free, free Palestine’ even though he didn’t say the word Palestine.

“London Underground are seen as hypocrites because people were allowed to stand up for Ukraine.

“I hope he doesn’t get the sack but if the London Underground do sack him they are screwed both ways.

“If they sack him the Muslim drivers can say they are being Islamaphobic. If he doesn’t get the sack then the other side will say they are being antisemitic. I’m not sure what will happen but I hope he doesn’t lose his job.”

Hackney MP Diane Abbott asked her X followers: “Would [the susppension] have happened if he was chanting “Free Ukraine?”

TfL offered Ukrainian refugees free travel across their network for 72 hours if they showed staff their passports with noticeboards across stations adorned with Ukranian flags.

The driver’s union ASLEF called police involvement in investigating the video a “ridiculous overreaction”.

Finn Brennan, ASLEF’s full-time organiser on London Underground, said: “We are aware that a Tube train driver has been suspended while an investigation takes place.

“The involvement of the police in this matter is a ridiculous overreaction to something that should clearly be dealt with internally by Transport for London in line with normal procedures.”

The chant was criticised by minister for London Paul Scully who said Tube staff should “focus on the day job” and warned against stoking tension in the capital.

TfL has been approached for further comment.