Gaza war protesters in 'positive dialogue' to avoid UK Remembrance disruption

A total of 550 reports of anti-Semitic incidents and 220 reports of anti-Muslim crimes community since the conflict broke out

Remembrance Sunday commemorations typically involve war veterans, royals and senior politicians paying respects at the Cenotaph in London. PA
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Police in Britain say they are working with pro-Palestinian protesters to prevent unrest over the war in Gaza from disrupting Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

Karen Findlay, the Metropolitan Police commander overseeing the Gaza protests, said there had been “positive dialogue” with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) about setting up a route that would not pass the Cenotaph in central London.

She signalled rallies would be allowed to go ahead for marchers calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East on Armistice Day on Saturday, November 11.

Ms Findlay said organisers had “expressed that they have no intention to disrupt Remembrance events” and are working on a route that would not affect the “Remembrance footprint”.

“We have already been in positive dialogue with PSC, as we would do normally with organisations that are intending to protest.”

Rehearsals are already under way for Remembrance Sunday events, in which the royal family, senior politicians and former prime ministers typically turn out to pay respects to Britain's war dead in the heart of London. Remembrance Sunday is on November 12.

Police guarded the Cenotaph during a pro-Palestinian protest last weekend as dozens of people with British flags stood by the memorial.

A row broke out on Friday as Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said he had written to London mayor Sadiq Khan suggesting a pro-Palestinian march could be blocked, before Mr Khan accused him of “posturing” and said only the government could ban a rally.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a Remembrance march “provocative and disrespectful” to march on the day marking the armistice that ended the First World War. Mr Sunak said there was a “clear and present risk” of desecration of the Cenotaph or other war memorials, in what he said would be “an affront to the British public and the values we stand for”.

Ms Findlay said extra police would be called up from forces outside London for the Remembrance events if necessary after 170 officers were called in to help manage this weekend's demonstrations.

The PSC has held weekly marches that have mostly passed off peacefully but featured some arrests on suspicion of hate crimes or criminal damage and fuelled concern about anti-Semitic imagery and slogans.

Police will be making “sharper interventions” this weekend to arrest troublesome individuals in big crowds, with the help of facial recognition and social media monitoring, Ms Findlay said.

“There is a strength of feeling around the awful events in Israel, ,” she said. “That is completely understandable. We are absolutely sympathetic to that.

“That is what is naturally driving thousands of people on to the streets of London, to express their democratic right to protest in support for the Palestinian or Israeli causes.”

At the same time, police “fully recognise the sensitivities and inflammatory nature of some of the protests that we are seeing, and the messaging and the imagery on placards and in some of the chanting”, she added.

Police have received more than 550 reports of anti-Semitic incidents and 220 reports of anti-Muslim crime amid high community tensions over the conflict, both far more than at this time last year.

Authorities are also alert to radicalisation risks arising from the conflict, the Met's head of counter-terrorism Dominic Murphy said. Officers attached to the Prevent counter-radicalisation scheme have been deployed across London, he said.

“Unfortunately, we have experience that shows events and conflicts that happen overseas do have an impact on our safety and security here in the UK and can act as a radicalising factor for individuals,” Mr Murphy said.

He said police were “very alive” to the risks of people travelling abroad to join a terrorist group, which is how Hamas is designated in the UK. However, he indicated nobody had been arrested for doing this since the war in Gaza broke out.

“We continue to work with intelligence partners and our international partners to ensure that we have the best possible sight and response to those,” he said.

Updated: November 05, 2023, 5:39 AM