UK Defence Secretary says government is 'worried' about pro-Palestinian marches

Grant Shapps fears protests could spill over into hate speech and anti-Semitism

Police come between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Picadilly Circus in London. (Photo by Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)
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UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said the government is concerned about pro-Palestinian marches and fears they could "spill over" into hate speech and anti-Semitism.

It came as seven people were arrested, including a man seen carrying a coffin with offensive language written on it and another leading a chant of “intifada revolution”, as thousands of people marched in London on Saturday.

This week the government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption, Lord Walney, is due to publish a long-awaited report into disturbances.

Mr Shapps has warned that the police need to be "all over" the marches.

“It worries me, it worries the government a lot," he told GB News.

“I was pleased to see there were arrests yesterday made, we have said in the past, I think, the police need to be very much all over these things.

“We see the impact on people. It makes people feel very uncomfortable, when these marches sometimes spill over from the legitimate right to protest and make a point – that is not an issue – when they spill over into anti-Semitism, when they spill over into hate speech, racism, that is where there is a problem, and we absolutely back 100 per cent police taking the necessary action.

“I see now that they have charged hundreds and hundreds of people over the last few months and there were a significant number of arrests yesterday, which I think was the right way to deal with these things.”

Lord Walney has raised concerned about the “limited” police response to the protests.

“I’ve been concerned over many months now that the police do seem limited in what they are able to do to balance people’s right to protest with the cumulative impact of having marches through central London on a weekly basis," he told Sky News.

“This is making substantial parts of the community, sizeable parts of our Jewish community in London, apprehensive at best about going into the centre of the city.

“That is a deeply uncomfortable position.

“There has been a substantial level of criminality and disorder and anti-Semitic content around the margins of the marches.”

The march on Saturday was held by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Chief Supt Colin Wingrove, who is led the Met Police's operation, said they had worked to minimise disruption.

“We have worked with the organisers to ensure people could protest safely whilst at the same time minimising serious disruption to the community," he said.

“Officers made swift interventions to make arrests where criminal offences were suspected.”

Lord Walney's review, which was commissioned three years ago, could propose a ban on some protest groups.

Updated: May 19, 2024, 1:39 PM