A former science teacher and councillor from Norfolk described pro-Palestine protesters as "animals" and told them to "go back to their own country", a court has heard.

Robert Mackenzie hurled the racist comments at demonstrators during a stormy protest march in London last month, which came days after the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas.

The 68-year-old grandfather was a member of Long Stratton town council but was forced to stand down following his arrest.

He appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court today where he pleaded guilty to racially aggravated harassment. He will be sentenced later this month and could be jailed. 

Diss Mercury: Robert Mackenzie was arrested in London last monthRobert Mackenzie was arrested in London last month (Image: PA)

The protest, on October 14, was organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

It came a week after the Hamas raid on Israel in which at least 1,300 people were killed, with scores taken hostage.

It also followed retaliatory airstrikes by Israel on Gaza which the Palestinian authorities said claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of the capital from the BBC's New Broadcasting House to Downing Street, with angry clashes along the way and the chanting of slogans which Jewish groups say are anti-Semitic.

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Other protests have since been held in London and other cities, with home secretary Suella Braverman describing them as "hate marches".

Mackenzie - who has previously been arrested for taking part in an Extinction Rebellion protest - was among three men charged with a criminal offence at the Palestine march, the Metropolitan Police said.

The court heard that Mackenzie, who lives in Long Stratton, was arrested after telling a police officer, PC Aslam, who was trying to protect him from the "angry crowd", "why are you even here in this country?".

Mackenzie pleaded guilty to one count of causing racially aggravated harassment towards PC Aslam and a member of the public.

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David Burns, prosecuting, told the court: “This incident took place on October 14 during a Palestine protest.

“Mr Mackenzie had attended. He was seen shouting at protesters, ‘you’re animals – go back to your own country’.

“The police then intervened for his own safety and he said to PC Aslam, ‘why are you even here in this country?’ He was then arrested."

Diss Mercury: Mackenzie, 68, appeared before Westminster Magistrates' Court earlier todayMackenzie, 68, appeared before Westminster Magistrates' Court earlier today (Image: Long Stratton Town Council)

Ines Diab, defending, described Mackenzie as a “family man” with children and a grandchild who had been married for 40 years.

She said: “He has been a teacher teaching mostly Asian girls and he has never had a problem.

“He tells me he plays an active part in the local community and was a councillor until he was charged with this offence and had to retire.”

The court heard of a letter, written by Mackenzie and addressed to PC Aslam, in which he said he was sorry for the “unacceptable comments”, adding: “It is unacceptable that a police officer has to put up with this sort of abuse whilst doing his job – especially when you were trying to protect me from an angry crowd.”

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Regarding Mackenzie’s three previous offences, all related to protests.

Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring described him as “not of good character” and said he could not rule out a prison sentence.

Mackenzie was released on bail until November 30 at the same court.

He was given a six-month conditional discharge and £105 court costs in 2019 after being arrested during widespread Extinction Rebellion protests when demonstrators blocked landmarks including Waterloo Bridge, Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus.