Pro-Palestine protest camp set up next to Cenotaph was a 'disgrace', furious security minister tells LBC

19 October 2023, 08:37 | Updated: 19 October 2023, 11:05

Tugendhat called the stage set up by the Cenotaph a "disgrace"
Tugendhat called the stage set up by the Cenotaph a "disgrace". Picture: LBC/Social media

By Will Taylor

A pro-Palestine protest camp that was set up next to the Cenotaph was a "disgrace", the security minister has said.

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A stage draped in Palestinian flags was put up just next to the memorial in Whitehall.

It sparked outrage that a political demonstration would be mounted so close to a symbol for the nation's war dead.

Tom Tugendhat, the security minister and an army veteran, said: "It's a disgrace. The Cenotaph is, to many of us, sacred ground.

"In a few days' time, many of us are going to be standing in silence near the Cenotaph or watching veterans who fought in wars around the world for our country in order to keep us safe marching past the Cenotaph.

"And the Cenotaph is that symbol for all of us. It's unshowy, it's discreet, but it's powerful, it reminds us of the sacrifice of generations before.

Read more: Hunt for Palestine supporters with 'pro-Hamas hang-glider signs', as Suella Braverman vows crackdown

"For some of us, it reminds us of the friends that will never come home and it's deeply offensive to see it used as some sort of political backdrop for a propaganda outfit that has absolutely no respect for the British people.

"So I have to say it's deeply wrong. I've spoken to the police about this and I will be making sure that Westminster council is fully aware of my views."

The stage was set up for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as thousands marched in support for the Arab territory, as Israel retaliated for Hamas's October 7 massacre.

A total of 15 people were arrested as nine officers were injured in the demonstration.

Read more: 'I stand with you against the evil that is terrorism': Rishi Sunak's vow to Israel as he arrives in Tel Aviv

The Telegraph reported that 60 Tory MPs from the Common Sense Group have since told Sadiq Khan to ban protests at the Cenotaph.

The image of the stage triggered outrage, as did photos of riot police helmets that were left at the memorial's base.

Both the Metropolitan Police and Westminster Council have blamed each other for giving the protesters permission to demonstrate so close to the Cenotaph. The Met said it understood the sensitivity surrounding the memorial.

A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: "The council did not provide permission for a stage to be built next to the Cenotaph. Protests and marches are managed by the police. 

"The council told protest organisers that the Metropolitan Police is the agency responsible for determining whether a structure is appropriate in a given location, and permissions lie with them.

"We do not support staging at the Cenotaph during future protests, however, that is a matter for the police."

A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said: "Both the Mayor and the police are clear – the right to protest is an important part of our democracy, but those who break the law and incite violence or hatred will have action taken against them.

"There is no place for hate crime in this city. There were a number of arrests from protests at the weekend, and police continue to view footage and other material.

"Changing the law and regulations around what constitutes an appropriate protest is a matter for ministers and Parliament."

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