A large pro-Palestinian march began in London on Saturday, following clashes between far-right protesters and police. The police launched a major operation to prevent clashes between the two groups. The march is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people and has also drawn counter-protesters from right-wing groups. London’s Metropolitan Police stated that they faced aggression from the counter-protesters, who were in significant numbers. They made it clear that they would not allow the counter-protesters to confront the pro-Palestinian rally. The police emphasized that they would use all available powers and tactics to prevent any confrontations.
The “National March for Palestine” is the latest in a series of rallies in London showing support for the Palestinians and calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Government ministers had called for the cancellation of the march because it falls on Armistice Day, a day of remembrance for war veterans. Ben Jamal, one of the organizers from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), stated that up to a million people could join the rally. He assured that the rally would be peaceful but acknowledged the heightened situation.
During the gathering at the start point, pro-Palestinian protesters could be heard shouting a rallying cry that is viewed by many Jews as antisemitic and a call for Israel’s eradication. The scuffles between police and far-right counter-protesters occurred near the Cenotaph war memorial. Some of the counter-protesters chanted, “We want our country back.” In a separate incident in Chinatown, bottles were thrown at the police by members of right-wing groups.
To prevent disorder, almost 2,000 officers were on duty, and there has been an unprecedented 24-hour police guard at the Cenotaph since Thursday. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor described Saturday as “challenging and tense.” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticized the pro-Palestinian rally on Armistice Day as disrespectful. There have been over 100 arrests in previous PSC marches for offenses such as showing support for Hamas or holding placards with offensive slogans. Western governments, including Britain’s, have shown strong support and sympathy for Israel since Hamas’s assault in southern Israel. However, the Israeli military response has also sparked anger, leading to weekly protests in London calling for a ceasefire.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the minister in charge of policing, has faced controversy for calling the protesters “hate marchers.” Sunak has been under pressure to sack her after she accused the police of double standards in their treatment of “pro-Palestinian mobs.” Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf called for her resignation, blaming her for emboldening the far-right protesters.
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