More than 300,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through central London on Saturday, with police arresting nearly 100 far-right counter-protesters to prevent them from ambushing the main rally. Skirmishes occurred between police and the far-right groups that had also gathered in the capital. These clashes coincided with Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War One, when Britain honors its war dead. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticized the timing of the rally, calling it disrespectful to hold it on the same day as the commemorations. Despite calls for its cancellation, the march proceeded as planned and became the largest demonstration in a series of events showing support for the Palestinians and calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Police reported the presence of several hundred counter-protesters in central London, and confrontations broke out near the Cenotaph war memorial early in the day. Incidents continued throughout the day, with police in riot gear attempting to control protesters near the House of Commons, train stations, and side streets. Videos showed police officers using batons to manage the crowds. Some protesters engaged in “unacceptable violence” by throwing bottles and metal barriers at officers. In an effort to maintain peace, London’s Met Police arrested 82 counter-protesters, while an additional 10 arrests were made for other offenses. Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist stated that the counter-protesters appeared to be “intent on confrontation and intent on violence.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, held Interior Minister Suella Braverman responsible for exacerbating tensions and emboldening the far-right. Braverman had accused the police of favoring “pro-Palestinian mobs.” Despite the controversy, the pro-Palestinian rally saw a large turnout, with the police estimating over 300,000 participants, while organizers claimed the figure was 800,000. During the demonstration, chants such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” were heard, which some view as antisemitic and a call for the eradication of Israel. Protesters carried banners advocating for a free Palestine, an end to the massacre, and a halt to the bombing in Gaza.
Since Hamas’s attack in southern Israel on October 7, there has been significant support and sympathy for Israel from Western governments, including Britain, as well as many citizens. However, the Israeli military response has also sparked anger, leading to weekly protests in London demanding a ceasefire. In addition to the London rally, around 21,000 people participated in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Brussels, while in Paris, approximately 16,000 protesters, including left-wing lawmakers, marched with pro-Palestinian banners and flags to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Some French politicians have welcomed President Emmanuel Macron’s recent call for a ceasefire, expressing opposition to Israel’s bombing of Gaza. In response to rising tensions, senior French lawmakers have organized a protest against antisemitism scheduled for Sunday.
The article was reported by multiple journalists in London, Paris, and Brussels, with writing by Sarah Young and editing by Kate Holton, Ed Osmond, and Helen Popper. The article adheres to the Thomson RushHourDaily Trust Principles.
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