Sadiq Khan heckled by protesters at Royal Festival Hall event

Sadiq Khan was heckled and sworn at by a small group of protesters during an appearance at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday evening.

Between four and six men and at least one woman, who appeared to be protesting about the Ulez expansion, shouted and interrupted the mayor during a ticketed event to promote his book, Breathe.

They were sat in the middle of the 2,600-capacity hall, about 30 yards from the mayor on stage.

The audience tried to drown out the shouts and called for the protesters to leave as they encouraged the mayor to continue reading extracts from his book.

At one stage, one of Mr Khan’s brothers, who was sat with his wife near the protesters, stood up and told them to be quiet. One man approached him, threatening a fight.

LBC presenter James O’Brien, who was questioning the mayor on stage, warned they would be evicted if the protests continued.

When one man shouted that it was “a lie” that schoolgirl Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death had been caused by air pollution, he was removed by the venue’s security staff.

A second man was evicted shortly before 9pm after shouting obscenities at Mr Khan. The rest of the group then left.

Mr Khan, asked about the protests and the level of abuse he has faced as mayor, said more people supported him than objected to his policies. To applause from the audience, he said his attitude was: “Don’t let the bullies win.”

Royal Festival Hall staff speak with some of the protesters at Sadiq Khan’s book event (Ross Lydall)
Royal Festival Hall staff speak with some of the protesters at Sadiq Khan’s book event (Ross Lydall)

The Royal Festival Hall had been closed in advance of the event for three hours this afternoon to allow a security sweep. There were bag checks on entry but the protesters, some of whom were drinking, were able to sit in the hall.

Mr Khan is planning to expand the Ulez from August 29 to cover all London boroughs, although a High Court hearing which could potentially derail that timeframe is planned for July.

The mayor has insisted expansion is necessary to prevent the contribution air pollution makes to the premature death of thousands of Londoners every year.

The issue was thrown into sharp focus by the death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah after an asthma attack. She became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death in 2020.

However, opponents of the Ulez expansion say it will have little impact on overall pollution levels but will hit people’s pockets during a cost-of-living crisis.

Drivers of vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards are charged a £12.50 daily fee for entering the zone.

In March, Mr Khan was heckled by some members of the crowd over the measure at a People’s Question Time event at Ealing Town Hall.