Pro-Palestine marches 'could be shut down by police' under new plans, amid anti-Semitism and disruption concerns

19 May 2024, 12:29

A pro-palestinian protest
A pro-palestinian protest. Picture: Alamy

By Charlie Duffield

The Home Office could outlaw pro-Palestine marches, under news plans to amend a law that allows processions to be outlawed and public assemblies restricted.

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The government is considering altering the Public Order Act, so that police would be empowered to shut down pro-Palestinian protests, which have been taking place every weekend in London since October, the Telegraph reported.

Section 12 of the Act is under "active consideration" and means police could take into account the "relative cumulative disruption" of a protest, when deciding whether to stop a protest from happening, with the definition of what this includes being reconsidered.

It comes as this week an official review by Lord Walney, the government's independent advisor on political violence and disruption, will be published, with recommendations for ministers.

The Home Office said recent protests have seen a small minority dedicated to causing damage and intimidation, and the events have been criticised for displays of anti-semitism.

Read More: Universities chief says it would be ‘counter-productive’ to break up encampments but vows to protect Jewish students

Read More: Shocking moment man 'spits towards group of Israel supporters' near pro-Palestine protest at university in London

Palestine supporters march in London on Saturday
Palestine supporters march in London on Saturday. Picture: Alamy

Earlier this year, the Home Office’s independent adviser on extremism said that pro-Palestinian protests are turning London into “a no-go zone for Jews”.

Meanwhile, the head of the Met police, Sir Mark Rowley, has faced calls to quit after officers threatened to arrest an “openly Jewish” man during a pro-Palestine rally.

Protests organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign march through Central London from Parliament square to Hyde Park
Protests organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign march through Central London from Parliament square to Hyde Park. Picture: Alamy

In addition, Gideon Falter, chief executive of the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), who was threatened with arrest last month for being “openly Jewish”, has held a series of meetings with Home Office and Downing Street officials in recent weeks to discuss how these protests are policed.

Mr Falter said that policing of the pro-Palestinian protests has been a “shambles”, with “practically nothing” done to restrict them.

He added: “For over seven months, Sir Mark has claimed that he requires additional legal powers to curtail the marches even though the law already plainly gives him the powers he needs.

“To break the deadlock, we have turned to the Government to issue clarifications to the Public Order Act that give the Met nowhere to hide.  These weekly takeovers of central London must be brought to an end and this move will make it completely undeniable that the Met has both the power and the duty to act.”

Edward Isaacs on the 'demand' that's needed for universities to tackle anti-Semitism on campuses.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The right to protest is a cornerstone of our democracy, but there are clear concerns about the cumulative impact protests are having on some of our communities which we are looking at.

"All communities should be able to go about their daily lives without fear.

"We have been clear with the police that they must use all the powers available to them to police protests appropriately and will always have our backing in doing so.

"We thank the Campaign Against Antisemitism for their proposals and we will be looking closely at them alongside Lord Walney’s recommendations which will be published this week.”

In 2022, the Public Order Act was amended for former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, to limit the activities of Just Stop Oil protests and the changes were enacted last year.

It means secretaries of state can apply for injunctions in the public interest "where protests are causing or threatening serious disruption or a serious adverse impact on public safety".

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