London police scuffle with counter-protesters as tensions rise over a pro-Palestinian peace march

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London: Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched through central London on Saturday following scuffles nearby between far-right protesters and police, who launched a major operation to avert clashes.

The pro-Palestinian march drew counter-protesters from right-wing groups on Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War One, involving commemorations of Britian’s war dead.

Protesters wave flags and hold flares during a pro-Palestinian protest in London on Saturday.Credit:

The “National March for Palestine” is the latest in a series of rallies to show support for the Palestinians and call for a ceasefire from Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Ministers had called for it to be cancelled because it falls on Armistice Day.

Police said far-right groups opposing the march were present in central London in “significant numbers”, leading to skirmishes with officers near the Cenotaph war memorial, close to the Houses of Parliament and in Westminster.

Police line the streets outside the Houses of Parliament as part of the Met Police’s ‘ring of steel’.Credit:

Officers in riot gear sought to contain the far-right protesters, some of whom threw bottles at them, and police vehicles sped around the city to respond to reports of tensions in the streets.

Police arrested 82 people to prevent a breach of the peace. The force said they were part of a group of counter-protesters trying to reach the main protest march.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, blamed the interior minister Suella Braverman for emboldening the far-right after she accused police earlier in the week of favouring “pro-Palestinian mobs”.

“The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far-right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the Home Secretary’s words,” Khan said on social media.

Police said the pro-Palestinian rally had a “very large” turnout and there had been no incidents related to it so far. They said they would not allow the two groups to meet.

“We will use all the powers and tactics available to us to prevent that from happening,” the police said.

Ben Jamal, one of the organisers from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), told Reuters up to a million people could join the rally. He said it would be peaceful, but acknowledged the “heightened situation today”.

As they gathered at the start point, pro-Palestinian protesters could be heard shouting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, a rallying cry which is viewed by many Jews as anti-Semitic and a call for Israel’s eradication.

Others carried banners reading “Free Palestine”, “Stop the Massacre” and “Stop Bombing Gaza”.

The pro-Palestinian march was due to end at the US Embassy.

“Here in London, just as we do around the world, the United States supports the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” an embassy spokeswoman said.

Since Hamas’s assault in southern Israel on Oct. 7, there has been strong support and sympathy for Israel from Western governments, including Britain’s, and many citizens. But the Israeli military response has also prompted anger, with weekly protests in London demanding a ceasefire.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has criticised the pro-Palestinian rally on Armistice Day as disrespectful, has come under pressure from his own lawmakers to sack Braverman following her comments about the police.


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