On Saturday, over 300,000 pro-Palestinian activists marched through central London with zero respect to Armistice Day, with police arresting over 120 people in an attempt to prevent counter-protesters from ambushing the main gathering.
Police clashed with veterans groups gathered to protest the march taking place on Armistice Day, the anniversary of the conclusion of World battle One, when Britain remembers its battle dead.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticised the violence at the Cenotaph war memorial, as well as “Hamas sympathizers” who joined the larger rally, “singing anti-Semitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing on today’s protest.”
Tensions were high before Saturday’s march, the largest in a series to show solidarity for Palestinians and urge for a ceasefire in Gaza, after Interior Minister Suella Braverman dubbed them “hate marches” conducted by “mobs.”
The Metropolitan Police in London had resisted ministerial calls to halt the event, claiming that there was no evidence of significant violence, straining relations with the government.
Police announced in a statement late Saturday that they had arrested 126 people so far, the majority of whom were right-wing protestors who were part of a group of several hundred people that included football hooligans, according to police.
“The extreme violence from right-wing protesters towards police today was extraordinary and deeply concerning,” Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said, adding that a knife and knuckleduster were discovered during searches.
He claimed that the heated debate over protest and policing in the run-up to the march had heightened communal tensions.
While there was no physical violence at the considerably bigger pro-Palestinian event, the senior officer claimed small groups had split away from the main march, and approximately 150 people wearing face coverings had launched fireworks that struck officers in the faces, resulting in arrests.
He also stated that investigations into a small number of hate crimes and assistance for prohibited organisations were ongoing.
Sunak demanded that the police take a firm stance.
“All criminality must be met with the full and swift force of the law,” he declared late on Saturday in a statement. “That is what I told the Met Police Commissioner on Wednesday, that is what they are accountable for and that is what I expect.”
[1/10]Police officers detain a counter-protester in London, Britain, on November 11, 2023, on the day of a demonstration in sympathy with Palestinians in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist party Hamas. Hannah McKay for Reuters Obtain Licencing Rights
Skirmishes between police and right-wing protestors raged on throughout the day, with officers in riot gear using batons to disperse bottle-throwing protesters.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, both stated Braverman had inflamed tensions and emboldened the far-right by accusing police of supporting “pro-Palestinian mobs” prior to the event.
OVER 300,000 PARTICIPATE IN MARCH
According to police, more over 300,000 people attended the pro-Palestinian march, but organisers placed the amount at 800,000.
Some demonstrators sang, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a rallying cry that many Jews regard as antisemitic and a call for the annihilation of Israel.
Others held signs that read “Free Palestine,” “Stop the Massacre,” and “Stop Bombing Gaza.”
Since Hamas’s attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, Western governments, including Britain’s, and many citizens have expressed strong support and sympathy for Israel. However, the Israeli military response has sparked outrage, with weekly protests in London calling for a ceasefire.
Hundreds of protesters gathered near President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, soon before he returned for the weekend. Biden’s convoy avoided the rally, which included hundreds of people walking down the tree-lined boulevard to get closer to the Biden mansion. Many carried Palestinian flags and posters calling for a cease-fire.
Hanaa A., who did not give her last name, stated that she came to Wilmington to protest the killing of innocent children and to urge an immediate ceasefire. When asked about the expected race between Biden and former President Donald Trump in November, she stated, “We will pray and wait, but at this point, we will not elect him (Biden).”
On Saturday, over 21,000 people attended a rally in Brussels, and approximately 16,000 demonstrators marched in Paris with pro-Palestinian banners and flags to ask for a ceasefire.
Some French socialist MPs hailed President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a cease-fire and opposition to Israel’s bombing assault earlier this week.
Senior French MPs have planned an anti-antisemitism march for Sunday.