Thousands take to London streets in fifth major Gaza protest since beginning of year

March between Hyde Park and US embassy in Nine Elms called for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters wave flags and carry placards during a march through London, on Saturday. AFP
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The fifth major pro-Palestinian protest march so far this year has brought thousands of people onto the streets of London calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), the march started at Hyde Park and ended at the US embassy across the Thames river at Nine Elms.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and carried banners that read "Stop the war on Gaza" and "Ceasefire now".

"We will continue to protest until a ceasefire is called, and until there is an end to all UK complicity with Israel's decades long oppression of the Palestinian people," march organiser Ben Jamal said ahead of the protest march.

'Singing, drumming, love and compassion'

Welsh singer Charlotte Church, who was at the front of the march, said she joined the protest to "show solidarity with the people of Palestine for all that they are suffering through".

"I am here today to call for an immediate ceasefire, to ask our Government and governments all over the world to send as strong message as we possibly can. But a strong, a peaceful a loving message, that's what every single march that I've been on for Palestine has been about.

"There's been singing there's been drumming, yes, there's been emotion, but in the majority that emotion has been love, has been compassion because that's why we're all here," she added.

Police costs

London saw a significant police presence on Saturday, as the Metropolitan Police said the policing of such protests since October 7 had required 35,464 officer shifts and more than 5,200 officer rest days to be cancelled, adding up to a cost of £32.3 million.

Former British home secretary Suella Braverman recently described the demonstrations as “hate marches”, while the government’s commissioner for counter-extremism, Robin Simcox, wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Friday that London had been “permitted to be turned into a no-go zone for Jews every weekend”.

However, the human rights activist and social cohesion adviser to the government, Dame Sara Khan, told the Guardian newspaper that "it’s really important that we don’t conflate those protesters, somehow saying or portraying them as somehow as being all extremists".

Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for the police to take tougher action against the protesters, saying the events "had descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence," adding that "we must draw a line."

"I say this to the police, we will back you when you take action," he added.

Updated: March 09, 2024, 5:30 PM