Police labelled both ‘woke’ and ‘fascists’ over pro-Palestinian marches, Met chief says

5 March 2024, 15:46 | Updated: 5 March 2024, 15:49

Sir Mark Rowley said police were being labelled both ‘woke’ and ‘fascist’
Sir Mark Rowley said police were being labelled both ‘woke’ and ‘fascist’. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Scotland Yard has been criticised as being both ‘woke’ and ‘fascist’ at the same time over its handling of pro-Palestinian marches, the Met Commissioner has said.

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Hitting back at criticism from Rishi Sunak over the policing of anti-war protests, Sir Mark Rowley said officers were in an impossible position of being branded both ‘woke and fascist’ at the same time.

On Friday evening the Prime Minister drew criticism for a speech in which he said he wanted more stringent policing of protests.

He said that British democracy faces “intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence.”

The Tory leader said: “I want to speak directly to those who choose to continue to protest: don’t let the extremists hijack your marches.

'From the River to the Sea' was projected onto the side of Big Ben
'From the River to the Sea' was projected onto the side of Big Ben. Picture: Alamy

“You have a chance in the coming weeks to show that you can protest decently, peacefully and with empathy for your fellow citizens.”

“I say this to the police, we will back you when you take action,” he said, confirming that senior police chiefs would be expected to police rather than simply manage pro-Palestine protests.

Sir Mark Rowley has hit back saying his officers are “policing the law as it is, not as others would wish it to be.”

At a meeting of the London Policing Board on Tuesday, Sir Mark said: “In this context of polarised public debate, I do think sometimes we are the first people who are able to be labelled simultaneously woke and fascists and that comes across in some of the criticism.

Read more: 'Our democracy is under threat': Rishi Sunak says as he claims streets are being ‘hijacked’ by extremists

Read more: Jeremy Hunt 'to cut National Insurance by 2p' in Budget as tax boost for workers

Rishi Sunak called for more stringent policing of protests in a widely criticised speech outside No10
Rishi Sunak called for more stringent policing of protests in a widely criticised speech outside No10. Picture: Alamy

“I fully understand the strength of feeling but to suggest that we are not where the law permits as the law allows, policing robustly, is not accurate.”

Last month pro-Palestinian protesters beamed the controversial slogan “from the river to the sea” on to Big Ben, with police officers failing to act to stop them.

Sir Mark said it was not correct to suggest the police had simply stood by while people had broken the law.

He said: “At each of the major protests where the majority have been peaceful we have seen wrongdoing, and we have acted, arresting at most of these big events between ten and 30 people for a range of public order and terrorism offences.”

The threshold for banning marches is very, very high, and is based solely on an unmanageable threat of violence.

“We are already imposing severe conditions on timings, locations and routes of marches, including being very sensitive to religious premises and conditioning protesters to avoid disruption to services and others.”

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