Pro-Palestine protesters gather for day of action across UK after Rishi Sunak warned of extremists taking over marches

2 March 2024, 16:30

Protesters gathered outside Barclays
Protesters gathered outside Barclays. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Pro-Palestine protesters have gathered for a day of action across the UK after Rishi Sunak warned of extremists taking over marches.

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The Palestine Solidarity Campaign singled out Barclays bank, with protesters gathering at nearly 50 locations including the branch on Tottenham Court Road in central London.

People could be seen marching from Mornington Crescent to the branch, chanting the controversial "from the river to the sea" and flanked by a mass of police officers.

Police ordered everyone to move across the road citing Section 14 of the Public Order Act.

The group claims that Barclays holds "substantial financial ties with arms companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel".

Other branches targeted were in Croydon, Hammersmith, Haringey, Harrow, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Streatham, Tower Hamlets, Willesden, and Wimbledon.

Barclays has been contacted for comment.

It comes after Mr Sunak warned that British streets are being hijacked by small, "hostile" groups and claimed that extremists are seeking to undermine democracy.

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

The Day of Action for Palestine is taking place across the UK
The Day of Action for Palestine is taking place across the UK. Picture: Alamy

Luca Salice, 67, co-chair of the Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign, dismissed the Prime Minister's rhetoric around extremists as an election ploy and said protesters were grateful for the police helping control their marches.

"Rishi Sunak is losing an election. He is scrambling", Mr Salice said.

He continued: "I don't think our protests are extremist. I don't see how being in favour of human lives is extremist.

"There could be one or two extremists who come into the protests. I can't say that is impossible and luckily we have the police here, who are working with us.

"They are helping us organise this protest and making sure they are safe. And whenever they see the odd person who may do something wrong, it is up to them to arrest them."

Protesters hold a march and rally in Southend on Sea calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Protesters hold a march and rally in Southend on Sea calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

Giving an address outside Downing Street on Friday evening, Mr Sunak said Britain had seen a "shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality" in recent weeks and months.

Several MPs have said they have felt threatened by protesters, and Parliament descended into chaos after Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he broke with convention because of security fears.

Earlier this week the Home Secretary announced a £31m package to boost security measures for MPs.

"What started as protests on our street has descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence," he said.

"Jewish children fearful to wear their school uniform lest it reveal their identity.

"Muslim women abused in the street for the actions of a terrorist group they have no connection with. Now our democracy itself is a target, saying that MPs don't feel safe at home.

Read more: ‘Galloway only won because Labour didn’t stand’: Keir Starmer vows to fight back in Rochdale at general election

Read more: 'We must take action now': The current discussions on MP safety need to be expanded to candidates too

Rishi Sunak addresses the media on Downing Street
Rishi Sunak addresses the media on Downing Street. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak also addressed the election of George Galloway, saying it demands a response.

The Prime Minister said that "it was beyond alarming that last night the Rochdale by-election returned a candidate who dismisses the horror of what happened on 7 October".

Mr Galloway said in response: "I abhor extremism just as much as he does (Mr Sunak) and that’s why I’m wearing a hat, because I was savagely assaulted whilst an MP in 2014, in a politically motivated assault, which hospitalised me and saw the assailant jailed for 20 months. So I’m as much against extremism and violence as anyone else and probably a little more so given my, my personal experience."

He added: "I also agreed with him when he said that change can only come through the democratic process. I’ve just spent four weeks on the streets of Rochdale, in the democratic process. The returning officer, a man of unimpeachable integrity one assumes, declared it last night, as a free and fair election."

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Mr Sunak said: "Our streets have been hijacked by small groups who are hostile to our values," Mr Sunak said.

"Threats of violence and intimidation are alien to our way of doing things," he went on.

Islamist extremists and far-right are two sides of the same coin, he said, noting that neither respect democracy. They are "spreading a poison," he said.

But he said that Islam is "emphatically not the same thing" as Islamism.

He said that extremism "aims to drain us of our confidence in ourselves as a people and in our shared future".

"They want to destroy confidence and hope. We must not allow that to happen."

He added: "No country is perfect, but I am enormously proud of the good that our country has done".

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Mr Sunak added: "We must be prepared to stand up for our shared values in all circumstances, no matter how difficult" in the face of divisions. 

"The time has now come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and beat this poison.

"We must face down the extremists who would tear us apart."If we do that, we can build on our great achievement in creating today's Britain, a country of kind decent, tolerant people.

The Prime Minister said: "We can make this a country in which we all feel a renewed sense of pride. This is our home. 

"So let us go forward together, confident in our values and confident in our future."