Pro-Palestinian protests across UK call for ceasefire

Defence and security Law and Justice Policy & Politics

Pro-Palestinian rallies have been held across the UK with tens of thousands calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war.

Protests were held in the four capitals of the home nations – London, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh – and in many other towns and cities including Liverpool, Glasgow and Leeds.

Thousands more gathered in Manchester to show their support for Palestinians. Earlier in the same city a vigil was held by the North West Friends of Israel for the hostages held by Hamas since the October 7 attack. They released red balloons with the names and photos of the hostages in the city’s Exchange Square.

London’s Oxford Street was brought to a standstill by a sit-in by pro-Palestinian protesters. Another sit-in demo at Charing Cross station caused difficulties for passengers accessing trains and platforms, with police called in to assist. Other protesters gathered outside the state broadcaster’s London headquarters and chanted, “BBC, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide”.

Some 10,000 people filled London’s Trafalgar Square – its official permitted capacity – for a protest led by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. Later, as protestors dispersed, Met police said fireworks were fired towards its officers and crowds in Trafalgar Square.

Met police arrested 29 people in London for various offences including inciting racial hatred, with two arrests made for the wording on a banner suspected to have breached the Terrorism Act.

Another was arrested after being identified on social media for alleged antisemitic comments and three others for allegedly assaulting a police officer. One arrest was in relation to the possession of cannabis.

Pro-Palestinian marches have been held around the world every Saturday since the war began last month. Stop the War – one of the groups organising protests in the UK – said this weekend’s focus is on local demonstrations rather than a mass rally. That is being held next Saturday, November 11, Armistice Day – the day before Remembrance Sunday – which the prime minister and home secretary have both criticised.

Rishi Sunak said it would be both “provocative and disrespectful” to hold a rally on that day. Suella Braverman – who has been heavily criticised for calling the Pro-Palestinian demos “hate marches” – posted on social media that it was “entirely unacceptable to desecrate Armistice Day with a hate march through London”.

Organisers said they have no intention of going anywhere near Whitehall or the Centotaph. The march is due to leave Hyde Park at 12.45pm – almost two hours after the period of silence – and end outside the US embassy.

In statement the Met police said it is planning a “significant” policing and security operation to cover the march.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal reminded that all of their protests to date have been peaceful and orderly and that for people to suggest the next one on Armistice Day would be otherwise “was a disrespect to the war dead {and] an insult to those marching for peace”.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy is calling for an immediate humanitarian pause in the bombing of Gaza and for the lifting of the “unacceptable siege conditions” imposed by Israel.

“Even wars have rules,” writes Lammy in the Observer. “The way Israel fights this war matters. They must uphold international law.

“The Palestinian people are not Hamas and the children of Gaza must be protected. It is unacceptable that the siege conditions on the strip have not been lifted.

“The number of dead Palestinian civilians and children is shocking, and as [US secretary of state] Anthony Blinken has said, Israel must take ‘concrete steps’ to protect innocent lives. And we must redouble our calls to end illegal settlement activity, intimidation and violence on the West Bank.”

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