UK urged to charge fees to 'disruptive' Gaza protesters

Pro-Palestine and Israel rallies have taken place in London and across Britain in the weeks since the war began

Protesters stage a sit-in on Westminster Bridge in London during a march in support of Palestine. EPA
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Organisers of pro-Palestine rallies in the UK could be made to pay charges to help cover the cost of policing rallies under proposals reportedly being looked at by the Government.

Lord Walney has recommended the UK Government consider the idea for groups that are disruptive or break laws, The Telegraph reported.

Pro-Palestine protests and pro-Israel rallies have taken place in London in the weeks since the war in Gaza began on October 7.

Lord Walney has been looking at political violence and disruption and the pressures on policing.

“The Government should consider the viability of requiring protest organisers to contribute to policing costs when groups are holding a significant number of large protests causing disruption or involving lawbreaking,” the Walney report said.

One extract reportedly said: “The number of marches being organised around the Israel-Hamas conflict, the scale of these marches, and the behaviour of some protesters means that a great amount of police resource is being directed to these protests”.

It added: “With the repeated incitements and disorder seen at the anti-Israel marches, such as when firecrackers have been thrown at police, I believe that there is an argument that the organisers should cover some of these policing costs.”

Lord Walney said: “Aside from the sense of fear that the pro-Palestine marches are causing for many Jewish people in Britain, we cannot ignore the considerable strain this drumbeat is placing on already overstretched police forces.”

On Saturday, pro-Palestine protesters staged a sit-in at Westminster Bridge, the first major demonstration of 2024. Hundreds of protesters blocked off the bridge and surrounding roads.

Many joined a sit-in that was fenced off on three sides by a police cordon. Other protesters wore face masks of leading politicians, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden, and held up hands covered in red paint.

The demonstration, organised by the Free Palestine Coalition, renewed calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and demanded that the UK stop arms sales to Israel.

In December, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist told MPs that £17 million ($21 million) had been spent on policing protests between October 7 and December 8.

He called it the “greatest period of sustained pressure on the Met since the Olympics in 2012".

The Home Office has not officially commented.

Updated: January 07, 2024, 4:24 AM