Palestinian supporters marched peacefully by way of central London on Saturday, at the same time as right-wing counter-protesters clashed with police, after per week of indignant debate over whether or not to allow the demonstration on a day when Britain honoured its battle useless.
The day unfolded in a backdrop of tensions fuelled by Residence Secretary Suella Braverman who earlier this week characterised pro-Palestinian demonstrations as “hate marches” and referred to as for Saturday’s occasion to be blocked out of respect for Armistice Day occasions marking the top of World Warfare I.
The skirmishes between police and counter-protesters carrying the Union flag of Nice Britain and the red-and-white flag of England appeared to verify the considerations that Braverman’s feedback would entice right-wing parts searching for an excuse to confront the pro-Palestinian marchers.
The march was apparently the most important in London for the reason that begin of the battle, with a whole bunch of 1000’s snaking by way of town from Hyde Park to the U.S. Embassy about three miles (5 kilometres) away.
London police arrested 82 folks to stop a breach of the peace. The drive mentioned they have been a part of a gaggle of counter-protesters attempting to succeed in the principle protest march.
Braverman, who oversees legislation enforcement in Britain, should now resign, mentioned Humza Yousaf, the primary minister of Scotland.
“The far-right has been emboldened by the Residence Secretary,” Yousaf mentioned on X, previously often called Twitter. “She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They’re now attacking the Police on Armistice Day. The Residence Secretary’s place is untenable.”
Greater than 2,000 officers, some referred to as in from surrounding forces, might be on the streets of the capital this weekend to make to make sure marchers obey the legislation and to stop potential confrontations with counter protesters, the Metropolitan Police Service mentioned.
Police are additionally taking steps to reassure the Jewish group, which has been focused by a surge in antisemitic incidents since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and Israeli forces responded with strikes and sending troops into the Gaza Strip.
“We all know the cumulative influence continued protest, growing tensions, and rising hate crimes are having throughout London and the concern and nervousness our Jewish communities particularly are feeling,” the police mentioned in an announcement. “They’ve a proper to really feel secure of their metropolis, understanding they will journey throughout London with out feeling afraid of intimidation or harassment.”
The legislation enforcement operation comes after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley resisted strain from political leaders to ban the march.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Braverman have additionally expressed concern that the protests might spill over into Sunday, when King Charles III and the prime ministers of Commonwealth nations will lay wreaths on the nationwide battle memorial, often called the Cenotaph.
The commemoration occasions are “sacred” to Britain and needs to be a time for unity and “solemn reflection,” Sunak mentioned in an announcement earlier than Saturday’s occasions received underway.
“It’s due to those that fought for this nation and for the liberty we cherish that those that want to protest can achieve this, however they need to achieve this respectfully and peacefully,” Sunak mentioned.
Whereas Sunak and Braverman’s feedback have been directed at pro-Palestinian protesters, critics had mentioned they risked sparking confrontations between the marchers and far-right teams.
Of most concern have been Braverman’s feedback suggesting that London police had been extra lenient towards pro-Palestinian demonstrators and Black Lives Matter supporters than right-wing protesters or soccer hooligans. Braverman mentioned the Metropolitan Police drive was ignoring lawbreaking by “pro-Palestinian mobs.”
On Saturday, fights broke out close to the Cenotaph between police and right-wing protesters chanting “England until I die.” Police used batons to cease the protesters, and ceremonies on the memorial weren’t interrupted. Different clashes occurred in different components of town, together with Chinatown and close to the Homes of Parliament.
Following the confrontation close to the Cenotaph, police mentioned the counter-protesters weren’t a single group and officers have been monitoring them as they moved away into different components of London. In the event that they tried to assault the pro-Palestinian march, “we are going to use all of the powers and techniques obtainable to us to stop that from occurring,” police mentioned.
Organizers of the pro-Palestinian march say they’ve taken steps to make sure it would not battle with Armistice Day occasions. The march is scheduled to start simply after noon, greater than an hour after the nation noticed a two-minute silence, and it’ll comply with a route from Hyde Park to the U.S. Embassy that does not go close to the Cenotaph.
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Marketing campaign, mentioned the marchers are calling for an finish to the bombing of Gaza, and he criticized Braverman for characterizing the protesters as extremists who have been going to desecrate the Cenotaph. The group has sponsored marches each Saturday in London for the reason that battle started.
“We mentioned to the police we didn’t wish to be anyplace close to Whitehall on Nov. 11: we didn’t wish to disrupt preparations for the commemoration of remembrance on the Sunday,” Jamal instructed the BBC. “It’s inconceivable, until she would not converse to the police, that the house secretary didn’t know that when she made her remarks.”
However police have gone additional, declaring an exclusion zone across the Cenotaph and stationing a 24-hour guard across the memorial, amid considerations that some protesters might search to deface it. Protesters have additionally been barred from the streets across the Israeli Embassy, close to the beginning of the march, and a few areas subsequent to the U.S. Embassy.
Police additionally mentioned they might take steps to stop convoys of autos travelling to the march from driving by way of Jewish communities. In previous years, convoys carrying individuals who waved flags and shouted antisemitic abuse triggered “important concern, concern and upset,” the drive mentioned.
Laurence Taylor, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, mentioned police would possible have to make use of drive to handle a few of the confrontations that happen over the weekend.
“We’re conscious there might be counter-protests, in addition to lots of people who would ordinarily come to London to mark their respect on Armistice Day, on Remembrance Sunday,” he mentioned. “Meaning we want a big and sturdy policing plan in place.”