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Palestine activists vow to continue with Armistice day protests despite police pleas to postpone
7 November 2023, 00:02 | Updated: 8 November 2023, 07:26
Palestine activists have pledged to press on with a demonstration in London on November 11th, despite the police urging them to postpone the march.
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The Met said that senior officers are concerned about "criminal acts" being carried out on Armistice Day by "breakaway groups intent on fuelling disorder who are attracted by these regular events."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: "The risk of violence and disorder linked to breakaway groups is growing.
"This is of concern ahead of a significant and busy weekend in the capital.
"Our message to organisers is clear: Please, we ask you to urgently reconsider. It is not appropriate to hold any protests in London this weekend."
But Raghad Altikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain said that the protest would go ahead on Saturday, telling LBC's Andrew Marr that if the official organising groups pulled out, more sinister "fringe" elements could launch their own march instead.
Raghad Altikriti: 'It's a call for armistice on Armistice Day.'
"We do have respect for Armistice Day," she said. "We are not marching on Remembrance Sunday... the banning of this protest would be dishonouring the memory of those who fought for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly."
She added: "People have been marching again and again every Saturday because of the sheer horror that's on the scale of those who have been killed in Gaza. The scenes coming out are simply horrifying, the number of dead children, the doctors, the journalists and it's just turning into a bloody situation".
Ms Altikriti said: "The Gaza strip has endured relentless and bombardment for the past two weeks. And I think it's very important for us to realise that for us to march."
She said that the protests had been "largely peaceful. Hundreds and thousands of British people marched peacefully, every single Saturday - our largest protests had over about half a million. So we never had a problem."
Police have been forced to make more than 100 arrests at the pro-Palestine marches in London, including some for anti-Semitic chanting. Two women who wore paraglider stickers in an apparent reference to the Hamas attacks were arrested on suspicion of inviting support for a proscribed organisation.
Others have been seen calling for 'jihad' and 'intifada'.
The debate over whether or not Palestine activists should march on Armistice Day centres on the balance of civil liberties and respect for the British war dead. The previous marches have been loud and passionate, whereas Armistice Day is traditionally a solemn occasion of remembrance.
Organisers have said in mitigation that the march will take place in the Hyde Park area of London, about a mile from the Cenotaph, and it will come nearly two hours after the two-minute silence at 11am.
Supporters say that calls for a ceasefire in Gaza are in the spirit of the Armistice, which marked the end of the First World War.
Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman have both voiced concerns about the march, with the Prime Minister saying on Friday that a demonstration would be "provocative and disrespectful".
But Lindsey German, of Stop the War, another organising group said on Monday: "We met the police today and argued that we wanted to march and were determined to go ahead.
"We believe that this is a denial of our civil liberties and our freedom of expression.
"The brutal onslaught on Gaza is being protested across the world. We have had huge demos on Palestine and we continue to do so. We will not be silenced."
Meanwhile the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a third group of organisers, said they were "deeply concerned" by the Met's statement, adding that the police must "act to uphold democratic freedoms including the right to protest.”
It comes after Rishi Sunak said that Metropolitan Police have the "absolute and total backing" of ministers to tackle criminality at the march.
The Prime Minister said on Monday: "Remembrance Day is a time for national reflection. It is a time when I know the whole country will come together to pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe.
"I want to make sure police have our absolute and total backing to clamp down on any acts of criminality, but also to ensure public order."
British military veterans have also come out against the protests with many calling for demonstrations on Armistice Day to be banned.
Former British Army bomb disposal officer, Major Chris Hunter branded the protest "brazenly ill-conceived" and called on organisers to cancel it.
Posting on Instagram, the decorated ex-soldier wrote: "The Friends of Al-Aqsa have opted to orchestrate a Million March for Palestine in the heart of London, an act of timing so misjudged that it casts a dark shadow over our nation's most sacred tradition—the Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph."
"This brazenly ill-conceived protest threatens to desecrate the sanctity of this cherished occasion, serving as a profound affront to the memory of our valiant veterans, of all faiths, and their monumental sacrifices.
"I implore the organizers, on this hallowed weekend of remembrance, to re-evaluate their timing, for anything less would be a grievous miscalculation. There is a sleeping giant in this country, the likes of which I hope is never woken. Lest we forget."
Saturday's planned route will take the protesters from Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames.
The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which is usually attended by members of the royal family, will take place on Saturday, with a two-minute silence at 11am.
Remembrance Sunday events will take place at the Cenotaph in Westminster the following day.
It comes as Israelis mark a month since Hamas launched its terror attacks on people in the south of the country on October 7, killing 1,400 and taking around 240 more hostage.
Israel has retaliated with a bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza in a bid to wipe out Hamas. Its military has killed over 10,000 people in Gaza, according to Hamas.