UK police urged to ban pro-Palestinian rally

British police came under mounting government pressure on Wednesday to ban a pro-Palestinian rally scheduled to take place in London on the day the country commemorates its war dead.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called the protest against the Israel-Hamas war scheduled for Saturday “provocative and disrespectful”.

Organisers have resisted pleas from Sunak and London’s Metropolitan Police to postpone the demonstration, when tens of thousands of people are expected to demand a ceasefire in the month-old conflict.

The force’s chief, Mark Rowley, has said the rally does not meet the threshold for requesting a government order to stop it going ahead.

Rowley said such a ban was “incredibly rare” and a “last resort” where there is a serious threat of disorder.

“The events taking place this weekend are of great significance and importance to our nation,” he said in a statement.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure they pass without disruption.”

Sunak is to meet Rowley on Wednesday but ministers in the Conservative government suggested that the commissioner should think again.

“There is a legal threshold and the commissioner is of the view that that legal threshold has not been met,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay told Sky News.

“Obviously, the Home Office and colleagues will discuss that over the course of the day.”

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said in a radio interview that police should keep the protest “under review”.

November 11 commemorates the end of fighting in World War I, and the sacrifice of armed forces in all conflicts since 1914.

Protest groups have not indicated they plan to march on Remembrance Sunday, when solemn ceremonies and two minutes’ silence are held at war memorials up and down the country.

But some fear their Saturday protest will disrupt Sunday’s commemorations.

Organisers have vowed to avoid the Whitehall area of central London where the Cenotaph — the focal point of Remembrance Sunday — is located.

London has seen large demonstrations on four successive weekends since the Hamas attacks in southern Israel on October 7 which Israel says left 1,400 people dead, mostly civilians. They also took 240 hostages.

Since then, Israel has relentlessly bombarded the Palestinian territory and sent in ground troops, with the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza saying more than 10,550 people have been killed.

Police have made dozens of arrests at the London protests, including for hate crimes.

Sunak’s outspoken interior minister Suella Braverman has branded the protests “hate marches”.

Source link