Far-right protesters clash with police before demonstration in the British capital.
Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in central London and begun marching in solidarity with Palestine chanting “Stop bombing Gaza” and “Ceasefire now”.
The “National March for Palestine” on Saturday is the latest in a series of rallies in the British capital to show support for the Palestinians since Israel launched an air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip following Palestinian group Hamas’s attacks on southern Israel on October 7.
Israel’s attacks, which it has said are aimed at wiping out the Palestinian group that rules Gaza, have killed more than 11,000 people in 34 days, including more than 4,500 children.
Former British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and member of Parliament for Islington also took part in the rally and demanded a ceasefire.
Ceasefire now. pic.twitter.com/zGe3pCtR9R
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 11, 2023
The UK government’s ministers had called for Saturday’s march to be cancelled because it falls on Armistice Day, which marks the end of World War I and commemorates those killed in military action.
On Wednesday, British Prime Rishi Sunak told reporters that he would hold the Metropolitan police commissioner accountable for safety since the police official defied demands to ban the pro-Palestine protests on Armistice Day.
Right-wing counter-protesters arrested
Police said 82 people were arrested in central London on Saturday “to prevent a breach of the peace”. They were members of a group of counterprotesters who opposed the pro-Palestinian rally under way in the city.
A few hours before the protest began on Saturday, a mile (1.6km) away from the start of the march, about 1,000 people lined the streets to watch the remembrance events at the Cenotaph war memorial.
Among the crowd, some right-wing counterprotesters opposed to the pro-Palestinian march chanted messages including, “We want our country back.”
Fights broke out near the Cenotaph between police and right-wing protesters. Police used batons to stop the demonstrators, and ceremonies at the memorial were not interrupted. Clashes also took place in other parts of the city, including Chinatown and near the Houses of Parliament.
Following the confrontation near the Cenotaph, police said the counterprotesters were not a single group and officers were tracking them as they moved away into other parts of London. If they attempted to attack the pro-Palestinian march, “We will use all the powers and tactics available to us to prevent that from happening,” police said.
“The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far-right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the Home Secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder,” the mayor of London Sadiq Khan said in a post on X.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman recently called pro-Palestinian demonstrations “hate marches” and said the police “play favourites” and take a soft stance towards rallies in support of Gaza.
“The Met have my full support to take action against anyone found spreading hate and breaking the law,” Khan’s post added.
The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far-right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the Home Secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder.
The Met have my full support to take action against anyone found spreading hate and breaking the law.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) November 11, 2023