A man believed to have been carrying a knife has been arrested by armed police outside the gates of parliament. Officers held the man on the ground at gunpoint at the entrance to New Palace Yard, the scene of a terrorist attack in March in which a police officer, PC Keith Palmer, was killed.
The suspect, wearing a grey hoodie and black trousers, was detained and searched by three officers by the railings in front of Carriage Gate, while four or five other officers patrolled the area nearby.
Witnesses told the Guardian the man had been Tasered. There were reports that officers shouted “knife, knife, knife”.
Police say they have not declared it a terrorist incident, but Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command is investigating. This is because of the location and the terrorist attack on Westminster on 22 March, and current high level of jihadi attack planning.
In a statement the Met said: “At this time it is too early to understand the motivation so we have not declared this a terrorist incident. However given the location, the circumstances and recent tragic events, the MPS counter-terrorism command will be investigating this incident.
“We remain open minded as to whether terrorism was a motive.”
After searching the man, officers carried away a plastic bag containing a belt and mobile phone and the suspect was led to a police van and driven away.
Metal barriers were quickly put in place along the front of the Houses of Parliament, blocking public access to the pavement in front of the building. Tourists huddled by the barriers watching the search but were allowed to pass after about 45 minutes when the man had been led away and parliament’s gates were reopened.
The Metropolitan police said in a statement: “At 11.10am on Friday a man was detained near to the Palace of Westminster. The man, aged in his 30s, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a knife. There are no reports of any injuries.”
Arrests being made outside New Palace Yard, whole pavement closed pic.twitter.com/cL8CKNfsfo
— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) June 16, 2017
The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, ordered a series of reviews of the security of the perimeter of the parliamentary estate after March’s attack, in which Khalid Masood killed Palmer after murdering four other people on Westminster Bridge. Parliamentary authorities are also examining the building’s incident management.
Extra security measures have been implemented on the bridge, including concrete barriers to protect pedestrians.
In an email to staff on Friday, the House of Commons authorities said: “We are aware of the earlier incident outside Carriage Gates. An individual has been arrested. The incident has now ended and access to the estate has returned to normal.”