Last Updated: November 12, 2023, 10:54 IST
London, United Kingdom (UK)
The Muslim community in the United Kingdom held the biggest pro-Palestine rally in London, calling for an immediate ceasefire in war-torn Gaza. Around one million protestors flooded the main streets of the capital in a resounding march, marking the largest demonstration in the country since the anti-war protests over the Iraq war in 2003.
The powerful show of support resonated with a fervent call for peace in Palestine as Israel continued to pound the enclave to eliminate Hamas, in retribution for the October 7 attack that killed 1,200 Israelis. Protestors, wielding banners declaring “Free Palestine” and “Free Al Aqsa Mosque,” passionately voiced their demand for an end to the Gaza conflict and the liberation of Palestine from occupation.
The march went ahead after a week of tensions, which saw the government call for the protest to be scrapped, and police said they made scores of arrests. Nearly 2,000 police were out in force to keep rival groups apart, with the march organised on Armistice Day, the annual event when Britain remembers its war dead with solemn ceremonies at war memorials.
Groups of men, waving England’s St George’s flag and the Union Jack, tried to break through police lines at The Cenotaph war memorial on Whitehall. Police in riot gear then faced a barrage of bottles in nearby Chinatown, the Metropolitan Police said. In a statement, Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said the extreme violence from the right-wing protestors toward the police was deeply concerning. Police intercepted a group of 150 who were wearing face coverings and firing fireworks. “Arrests were made after some of the fireworks struck officers in the face,” he said.
“Nine officers were injured during the day, two requiring hospital treatment with a fractured elbow and a suspected dislocated hip. Those officers were injured on Whitehall as they prevented a violent crowd getting to the Cenotaph while a remembrance service was taking place,” he added.
Today’s policing operation is now drawing to a close.Officers worked tirelessly to keep London safe, making at least 126 arrests in the face of significant violence. Sadly, nine officers were injured.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist’s statement gives an overview of events.
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) November 11, 2023
On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned far-right protesters and Hamas sympathisers. “I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL (English Defence League) and associated groups and Hamas sympathisers attending the ‘National March for Palestine’,” said Sunak in a statement. “The despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully.”
Sunak, who has resisted calls for him to back a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas, said far-right “thugs”, anti-Semitic chants and pro-Hamas signs and clothing had marred remembrance weekend. “All criminality must be met with the full force of the law,” he added.
(With agency inputs)