Palestine protest leader 'wanted Parliament to have to lock its doors', as fears grow for MP's safety

24 February 2024, 07:14

Palestine protesters outside Parliament
Palestine protesters outside Parliament. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A leading pro-Palestine activist told supporters that he wanted to force Parliament to "lock its doors", fuelling fears for MPs' safety.

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Ben Jamal, the head of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PCS) that is behind many of the demonstrations in recent months, organised the protest outside the House of Commons on Wednesday during the chaotic ceasefire vote.

The PSC tried to get its supporters into Parliament itself to pressure MPs to vote in favour of a ceasefire, but they were halted by security.

The night descended into shambolic scenes, as Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he broke convention to allow a vote on a Labour amendment out of fears for MPs' wellbeing.

Mr Jamal can be heard in a video saying: "We want so many of you to come that they will have to lock the doors of parliament itself," the Times reported. He also told protesters to "ramp up pressure” on MPs.

Read more: Backlash aimed at police after divisive ‘From the River to the Sea’ slogan was projected onto Parliament

Read more: Tory minister quits after ‘arson attack’ and string of death threats due to ‘pro-Israel stance’

Ben Jamal
Ben Jamal. Picture: Getty

The protest also saw demonstrators project the slogan 'From the river to the sea' onto the side of Big Ben. Some have interpreted this slogan as anti-Semitic, although police say it is only unlawful depending on the context.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said that MPs should not be put under "undue pressure".

He said: "MPs, indeed any elected representatives, have to be able to vote and opine without fear or favour. Changing that because of intimidation or the threat of it is not sending the right message.

“As home secretary, with the security minister, the police and other agencies, it is our job to ensure that MPs, councillors, the entire democratic process in fact are protected from undue pressure so that the only thing they have to fear is the ballot box.

London, UK, 21st February, 2024. Protesters gather for a rally on Parliament Square
London, UK, 21st February, 2024. Protesters gather for a rally on Parliament Square. Picture: Alamy

“External pressure, however strong, should not influence how MPs ultimately choose to discharge their duty, and I’m determined to make sure it is safe for them to do just that.”

Rishi Sunak said on Friday that it was "unacceptable" for MPs to feel intimidated by the protesters.

He said: "Some of the scenes we have been seeing in recent months, particularly antisemitic behaviour, are appalling and unacceptable. That is why we are giving the police more powers and I expect them to use them to make sure we clamp down on all of this."

The PSC tried to get protesters in using a 'green card' scheme that allows constituents to meet their MPs. But security stopped them, saying only 50 Palestine protesters were allowed in at a time.

London, UK, 21st February, 2024. Protesters gather for a rally on Parliament Square
London, UK, 21st February, 2024. Protesters gather for a rally on Parliament Square. Picture: Alamy

Mr Jamal told his supporters outside parliament: "MPs are feeling the pressure. They are becoming worried that the people in their constituencies who are protesting in the hundreds of thousands, who are confronting them day by day in their offices, who this week sent over 50,000 emails to MPs demanding a ceasefire and the 3,000 of you who turned up to lobby them face to face today.

"They are worried that if they continue to greenlight genocide you may not vote for them. You need to prove them right: no ceasefire, no vote. So friends we do not stop, whatever the outcome of the shitshow behind us tonight, we do not stop. We continue to ramp up the pressure."

Lord Walney, the government’s adviser on political violence, said that Mr Jamal's comments show "a far-left militancy".

He added: "That sense of threat and the idea of overwhelming a democratic institution with numbers means that this is not simply about the force of argument, it’s about trying to apply a physical pressure to parliament, as part of intimidating MPs into doing what they want.

"Vigorous debate is hugely important but people swarming parliament, MPs’ offices being occupied or damaged and MPs’ homes being surrounded so their family can’t go in is not about vigorous debate."

Caller Shahid criticises Suella Braverman's comments on 'Islamist Britain'

Mr Jamal said in a statement responding to the criticism: "More than 3,000 came from across the UK to lobby their MPs in person, in one of the largest physical lobbies of parliament in history.

"Shamefully, most were denied entry, ending up queuing for over four hours in the rain as extraordinary measures were introduced to limit the number who could meet their MPs face to face.

He said that he agreed with the idea that protests should not take place outside MPs' homes.

"However, we absolutely reject any argument that it is unacceptable for peaceful protests to take place outside of MPs’ offices, or that people coming to peacefully lobby their MPs on the issue of Palestinian rights should be treated as a security threat," Mr Jamal added.

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari speaks to Home Secretary James Cleverly | 23/02

Two MPs have been murdered in recent years - Jo Cox in 2016 by a far-right attacker, and Sir David Amess in 2021 by an Islamist.

In 2017, an Islamist terrorist drove a car at the perimeter of the Palace of Westminster and stabbed police officer Keith Palmer to death. He had also killed four people with his car, and injured 50 more. In 2018, another terrorist drove a car at pedestrians outside the palace, injuring three people.

More recently, a Conservative MP Mike Freer said he felt forced to step down because of fears for his safety due to his pro-Israel stance.

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