Police are investigating in England after a video was posted online showing chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty being harassed by two men in a park.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted: “We are aware of a video shared online showing an incident in St James’ Park.
The officers spoke with all those involved at the time and their details were taken.
“We are in contact with the victim and the circumstances are still under investigation,” he added.
The video, which lasts about 20 seconds, shows two smiling men holding Professor Whitty, apparently filmed by a third man, shouting “oi oi” and saying “one picture please”.
As Professor Whitty tries to get away, the men catch him again. With a row of police vans appearing in the background, a voice is heard saying “leave the man alone” before the clip ends.
The widely shared video sparked a heated reaction, with a number of MPs rushing to condemn those involved and some figures calling for police protection of key scientific advisors during the pandemic.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked” by what had happened.
“I condemn the behavior of these thugs. Hard working public servants should not face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it,” he wrote on Twitter.
I was shocked to see the despicable harassment of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
I condemn the behavior of these thugs. Our hardworking public officials should not face this kind of intimidation on our streets and will not tolerate it.
– Boris Johnson June 29, 2021
Health Minister Sajid Javid said the footage was “absolutely shocking and unacceptable”.
“CMO works tirelessly on behalf of the country,” said Mr. Javid.
“We will not tolerate this kind of behavior towards our public officials. Men who behave in this disgraceful way should be ashamed.”
Vaccines Minister Nadim al-Zahawi tweeted: “This is disgusting and these thugs must be found and charged. Zero tolerance for harassment of a government employee.”
Labor MP Jess Phillips said Prof Whitty felt “appalling and uncomfortable” and issued a reminder that public figures are “human”.
“Even if you consider her non-violent, it is clear that he was appalled, uncomfortable and resisted,” Phillips wrote on Twitter.
“Public characters aren’t puppets, they’re humans, it’s amazing how easy it is to forget that.”
Actor, TV and radio presenter Adel Ray said it was “a very disgusting way of dealing with someone who has dedicated their time to saving our lives”.
The former attorney general, Nazir Afzal, called for the protection of Professor Whitty and other scientists who advise the government on anti-epidemic measures.
“I know that if it was a statue of someone with a questionable past, it would have had dozens of strong security details,” Afzal wrote on Twitter.
“This is just an incident of harassment for the chief medical advisor.”
This is not the first time Professor Whitty has been forced to put up with public harassment.
Earlier this month he was confronted by a man on an Oxford street who accused him of lying to the public about the coronavirus, while in February he was confronted by a man outside Westminster.
The men filmed the events on mobile phones.