LONDON Palestinian supporters marched peacefully via central London on Saturday, at the same time as right-wing counter-protesters clashed with police, after every week of indignant debate over whether or not to allow the demonstration on a day when Britain honored its struggle lifeless.
The day unfolded amid a backdrop of tensions fueled by Dwelling Secretary Suella Braverman who earlier this week characterised pro-Palestinian demonstrations as hate marches and known as for Saturdays occasion to be blocked out of respect for Armistice Day occasions marking the top of World Battle I.
The skirmishes between police and counter-protesters carrying the Union flag of Nice Britain and the red-and-white flag of England confirmed the considerations of many who feared that Bravermans feedback would appeal to right-wing parts on the lookout for an excuse to confront the pro-Palestinian marchers.
Londons police arrested 82 individuals to stop a breach of the peace. The pressure mentioned they had been a part of a gaggle of counter-protesters making an attempt to achieve the principle protest march.
Braverman, who oversees regulation enforcement in Britain, should now resign, mentioned Humza Yousaf, the primary minister of Scotland.
The far-right has been emboldened by the Dwelling Secretary, Yousaf mentioned on X, previously referred to as Twitter. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They’re now attacking the Police on Armistice Day. The Dwelling Secretarys place is untenable.
Greater than 2,000 officers, some known as in from surrounding forces, will likely be on the streets of the capital this weekend to make to make sure marchers obey the regulation and to stop potential confrontations with counter protesters, the Metropolitan Police Service mentioned.
Police are additionally taking steps to reassure the Jewish neighborhood, 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 worry and anxiousness our Jewish communities specifically are feeling, the police mentioned in a press release. 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 regulation enforcement operation comes after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley resisted stress from political leaders to ban the march.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Braverman have additionally expressed concern that the protests may spill over into Sunday, when King Charles III and the prime ministers of Commonwealth nations will lay wreaths on the nationwide struggle memorial, referred to as the Cenotaph.
The commemoration occasions are sacred to Britain and needs to be a time for unity and solemn reflection, Sunak mentioned in a press release earlier than Saturday’s occasions bought 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 Bravermans feedback had been directed at pro-Palestinian protesters, critics had mentioned they risked sparking confrontations between the marchers and far-right teams.
Of most concern had been Bravermans 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 pressure 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 werent interrupted. Different clashes happened in different elements of the 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 had been monitoring them as they moved away into different elements of London. In the event that they tried to assault the pro-Palestinian march, we’ll use all of the powers and ways 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 doesnt 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 doesnt 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 had been going to desecrate the Cenotaph. The group has sponsored marches each Saturday in London because the struggle started.
We mentioned to the police we didn’t need to be anyplace close to Whitehall on Nov. 11: we didn’t need to disrupt preparations for the commemoration of remembrance on the Sunday, Jamal instructed the BBC. It’s inconceivable, until she doesnt communicate 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 touring to the march from driving via Jewish communities. In previous years, convoys carrying individuals who waved flags and shouted antisemitic abuse triggered important concern, worry and upset, the pressure mentioned.
Laurence Taylor, the Mets deputy assistant commissioner, mentioned police would possible have to make use of pressure to handle a few of the confrontations that happen over the weekend.
We’re conscious there will likely 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 strong policing plan in place.