BBC journalist tells court how he was chased by mob of anti-vaxxers | BBC

A BBC journalist said he felt “very scared” and “shaken” as he was chased by a mob of anti-vaxxers in London last year.

Anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protesters, who had been attending a rally in central London, called Nick Watt a “traitor” and shouted in his face, Westminster magistrates court heard on Wednesday.

Newsnight’s political editor said he felt like a “prey” as he was confronted by the group in Whitehall in June 2021.

Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard at the time, said he moved away from the crowd as people began shouting at him but eventually had to start running. He made his way behind the gates of Downing Street.

He told the court: “I used to be a runner, the calculation I made was that I could run faster than any of them.”

Watt, who was previously chief political correspondent at the Guardian, said he moved “like an express train” when he fled, adding: “I had become their prey, their quarry. It was like hunting a vulnerable animal.”

In a video played to the court, some of the mob can be heard shouting “traitor”, while another asked “how can you sleep at night?”

Christopher Aitken, 62, Martin Hockridge, 58, Djazia Chaib-Eddour, 44, Alexander Peat, 34, and Gary Purnell, 45, all deny using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress. They were all released on bail.

Watt had left his office on the parliamentary estate to observe the protest, which he said was initially “reasonably good natured”. However, he had to use his BBC lanyard to identify himself as press to police when the “atmosphere deteriorated”.

He told the court he decided to walk away, in the direction away from Downing Street, before he began to see there was a “huge physical threat” as he ran to safety near No 10.

Prosecuting, Alex Matthews told the court a “frenzied incident was whipped up in joint fervor” and the five defendants “engaged in mob rule”.

Watt told the court the experience had left him “very shaken”, adding that despite having covered unrest in Northern Ireland, he “had never experienced” behavior of that kind.

The court also heard how the incident had a long-lasting impact on his mental wellbeing. During the evidence, two people were removed from the public gallery for laughing.

The trial continues.

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