Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

LONDON — Palestinian supporters marched peacefully by way of central London on Saturday, whilst right-wing counter-protesters clashed with police, after per week of indignant debate over whether or not to allow the demonstration on a day when Britain honored its conflict lifeless.

The day unfolded amid a backdrop of tensions fueled by House Secretary Suella Braverman who earlier this week characterised pro-Palestinian demonstrations as “hate marches” and known as for Saturday’s occasion to be blocked out of respect for Armistice Day occasions marking the top of World Struggle 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 Braverman’s feedback would appeal to right-wing parts searching for an excuse to confront the pro-Palestinian marchers.

London’s police arrested 82 individuals to forestall a breach of the peace. The power stated they have been a part of a gaggle of counter-protesters attempting to achieve the primary protest march.

Braverman, who oversees regulation enforcement in Britain, should now resign, stated Humza Yousaf, the primary minister of Scotland.

“The far-right has been emboldened by the House Secretary,” Yousaf stated 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 House Secretary’s 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 forestall potential confrontations with counter protesters, the Metropolitan Police Service stated.

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 affect continued protest, rising tensions, and rising hate crimes are having throughout London and the concern and nervousness our Jewish communities specifically are feeling,” the police stated in an announcement. “They’ve a proper to really feel secure of their metropolis, figuring out 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 strain from political leaders to ban the march.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Braverman have additionally expressed concern that the protests might spill over into Sunday, when King Charles III and the prime ministers of Commonwealth nations will lay wreaths on the nationwide conflict memorial, referred to as the Cenotaph.

The commemoration occasions are “sacred” to Britain and must be a time for unity and “solemn reflection,” Sunak stated in an announcement earlier than Saturday’s occasions acquired 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 have to achieve this respectfully and peacefully,” Sunak stated.

Whereas Sunak and Braverman’s feedback have been directed at pro-Palestinian protesters, critics had stated they risked sparking confrontations between the marchers and far-right teams.

Of most concern have been Braverman’s 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 stated the Metropolitan Police power 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 weren’t interrupted. Different clashes came about in different elements of the town, together with Chinatown and close to the Homes of Parliament.

Following the confrontation close to the Cenotaph, police stated the counter-protesters weren’t a single group and officers have 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 techniques out there to us to forestall that from occurring,” police stated.

Organizers of the pro-Palestinian march say they’ve taken steps to make sure it doesn’t 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 doesn’t go close to the Cenotaph.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Marketing campaign, stated the marchers are calling for an finish to the bombing of Gaza, and he criticized Braverman for characterizing the protesters as extremists who have been going to desecrate the Cenotaph. The group has sponsored marches each Saturday in London because the conflict started.

“We stated to the police we didn’t wish to be wherever close to Whitehall on Nov. 11: we didn’t wish to disrupt preparations for the commemoration of remembrance on the Sunday,” Jamal instructed the BBC. “It’s inconceivable, until she doesn’t 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 could 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 stated they might take steps to forestall convoys of autos touring to the march from driving by way of Jewish communities. In previous years, convoys carrying individuals who waved flags and shouted antisemitic abuse prompted “important concern, concern and upset,” the power stated.

Laurence Taylor, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, stated police would possible have to make use of power to handle a number 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 stated. “Meaning we want a big and sturdy policing plan in place.”

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