Enhanced Measures by UK Police to Safeguard Peaceful Conduct of Large Pro-Palestinian March in London

credit; wsws.org

UK (Parliament Politic Magazine) – Supporters of the Palestinian cause peacefully paraded through central London on Saturday, while, in contrast, right-wing counter-protesters engaged in clashes with the police. This occurred against the backdrop of a contentious week-long discussion on whether to allow the demonstration to take place on a day dedicated to honoring Britain’s war dead. The atmosphere was heightened by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who, earlier in the week, labeled pro-Palestinian demonstrations as “hate marches” and urged the blocking of Saturday’s event out of respect for Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I.

Clashes Between the Police & Counter-Protesters

Clashes between the police and counter-protesters, brandishing the Union flag of Great Britain and the red-and-white flag of England, validated the apprehensions of those who were concerned that Braverman’s remarks might embolden right-wing factions seeking a pretext to confront the pro-Palestinian marchers. London’s law enforcement detained 82 individuals to avert a breach of peace, asserting that they were members of a counter-protest group attempting to approach the primary march in protest.

Humza Yousaf, the first minister of Scotland, has called for the resignation of Suella Braverman, who oversees law enforcement in Britain. Yousaf expressed his stance on X, formerly known as Twitter, stating, “The far-right has been emboldened by the Home Secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the Police on Armistice Day. The Home Secretary’s position is untenable.”

More than 2,000 officers, some drafted from nearby forces, are set to patrol the streets of the capital this weekend. Their mission is to ensure that marchers adhere to the law and to prevent potential clashes with counter-protesters, as stated by the Metropolitan Police Service. Additionally, the police are taking measures to reassure the Jewish community, which has witnessed a surge in antisemitic incidents since the attacks by Hamas militants on Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent response by Israeli forces involving strikes and troop deployment into the Gaza Strip.

Government’s Apprehension About the Protests

Both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Braverman have conveyed apprehensions about the possibility of the protests extending into Sunday. On this day, King Charles III and the prime ministers of Commonwealth nations are scheduled to lay wreaths at the national war memorial, known as the Cenotaph.

 Sunak emphasized the sanctity of the commemoration events to Britain, describing them as a time for unity and “solemn reflection” in a statement issued before the commencement of Saturday’s events. Sunak said: “It is because of those who fought for this country and for the freedom we cherish that those who wish to protest can do so, but they must do so respectfully and peacefully.”

Sunak and Braverman’s remarks, aimed at pro-Palestinian demonstrators, faced criticism from some who argued that such statements posed a risk of triggering confrontations between the marchers and far-right groups.

Braverman’s comments, particularly those insinuating that London police had shown more leniency towards pro-Palestinian demonstrators and Black Lives Matter supporters compared to right-wing protesters or soccer hooligans, raised significant concerns. She asserted that the Metropolitan Police force was turning a blind eye to lawbreaking by “pro-Palestinian mobs.”

Read More: UK Parliament Requests Testimony on NDA Impact on Women in the Music Industry

Clash Near Cenotaph

On Saturday, skirmishes erupted near the Cenotaph between police and right-wing protesters chanting “England till I die.” Police employed batons to contain the protesters, and the memorial ceremonies proceeded without interruption. Additional clashes unfolded in various parts of the city, including Chinatown and near the Houses of Parliament.

Following the clash near the Cenotaph, the police reported that the counter-protesters did not constitute a single cohesive group, and law enforcement officers were actively monitoring their movements as they dispersed into other parts of London. Police emphasized their commitment to using all available powers and tactics to prevent any attempts to attack the pro-Palestinian march.

Organizers of the pro-Palestinian demonstration have stated that they’ve taken precautions to ensure it doesn’t coincide with Armistice Day events. The march is scheduled to commence just after midday, over an hour after the nation observes a two-minute silence. Its route, from Hyde Park to the U.S. Embassy, has been planned to avoid proximity to the Cenotaph.

Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, emphasized that the marchers are advocating for an end to the bombing of Gaza. He criticized Braverman for labeling the protesters as extremists intending to desecrate the Cenotaph.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.