Scotland Yard has approved a pro-Palestine rally on Armistice Day, stating that it does not have the authority to ban the protest. Metropolitan Police chief Mark Rowley indirectly criticized the Home Secretary, stating that the laws of Parliament and intelligence gathered did not warrant a ban. The rally, expected to attract 70,000 people, can only be banned if there is a genuine threat of serious disorder. Despite concerns of violent clashes with right-wing activists, the organizers have refused to postpone the event. They have also disregarded objections from Rishi Sunak, who deemed the rally disrespectful, and Suella Braverman, who labeled it a “hate march.”Sir Mark, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has stated that he cannot ban the pro-Palestine protest scheduled for Saturday simply because some people believe it should not be allowed. He explained that the laws created by Parliament do not grant absolute power to ban protests, so the demonstration will proceed as planned. However, he clarified that the law does allow for the imposition of conditions to minimize disruption and the risk of violence, and in extreme cases, marches or moving protests can be banned. Sir Mark emphasized that the use of this power to ban moving protests is extremely rare and should only be employed when there is credible intelligence suggesting a real threat of serious disorder.
Despite concerns raised by the Metropolitan Police, the organizers of Saturday’s march have demonstrated a willingness to stay away from the Cenotaph and Whitehall and have no intention of disrupting the nation’s remembrance events. Sir Mark acknowledged this and stated that if the circumstances were to change, the police would use all available powers and conditions to protect locations and events of national importance.
The Metropolitan Police had urged the organizers of the march to reconsider holding the event due to an increasing risk of violence. However, the pro-Palestinian coalition behind the protest has refused to cancel it. The police could potentially request the power to ban the event under Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986, but this would only be applicable if there was a threat of serious public disorder that could not be controlled through other measures. The last time these powers were used was ten years ago when a march by the far-Right English Defence League was prevented by then-Home Secretary Theresa May in east London.
It has been revealed that groups of football hooligans are planning to join forces to protect the Cenotaph from any protesters who deviate from the official route. One of these groups, Football Lads Against Extremism, claims that veterans have reached out and requested their support. Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League, posted a message on social media calling for people to join the demonstration. Retired Army colonel Richard Kemp, who led British troops in Afghanistan, has warned of potential clashes in the capital and expressed surprise that the police have not already banned the march. Veterans minister Johnny Mercer, along with the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, has added to the pressure on Sir Mark to take action.The Metropolitan Police stopped protesters from entering Charing Cross Station and closed the doors at the end of a pro-Palestinian protest in Trafalgar Square last weekend. This action was taken due to the continued chanting of slogans and protests.
A group called ‘Football Lads Against Extremism’ claims that veterans have reached out and asked for their support.
There are concerns about the ability of elderly veterans to travel to London, particularly through rail stations, unmolested. This is an important part of their remembrance, and they have expressed genuine fears about their ability to do so.
Jonathan Hall KC, the independent reviewer of terror laws, has warned of a risk of an ‘extreme Right-wing terrorist backlash’ if the rally goes ahead. Nigel Farage, former UKIP leader, has criticized the Met for not banning the event, calling them ‘gutless’.
More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the demonstration on Saturday to protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza following the Hamas massacres of October 7.
In another incident, pro-Palestinian supporters defaced the Rochdale war memorial before Armistice Day, with police standing guard at the monument.Police are now standing guard at the monument following previous rallies where officers were injured, extremist imagery was displayed, and anti-Semitic chanting occurred. The organisers have stated that they will avoid Whitehall and the Cenotaph and will begin their demonstration after the two-minute silence. The march will go from Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall. However, there are concerns that splinter groups may clash with veterans, Right-wing activists, and football fans at the Cenotaph. The Rochdale Cenotaph was vandalized with ‘Free Palestine’ graffiti, prompting police to protect it. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the main organiser of the march, acknowledges the pressure on the police but emphasizes the importance of upholding democratic freedoms, including the right to protest. They invite people of conscience to join them in peacefully marching. Nicholas Soames, a former armed forces minister, believes the march should be allowed, despite the contentious nature of the issue.Mrs Braverman expressed her disapproval of a hate march through London on Armistice Day, deeming it entirely unacceptable. Sacha Deshmukh, the head of Amnesty International UK, urged the Metropolitan Police not to succumb to political pressure and emphasized their responsibility to facilitate peaceful demonstrations. On the other hand, Ron Dermer, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, condemned the pro-Palestine marches, labeling them as war crimes. He argued that slogans advocating for a Palestine from river to sea amount to incitement to genocide, which is a violation of international law. Dermer commended the government and the head of the Labour Party for their condemnation of such actions.
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