Man carrying anti-Hamas placard mobbed then arrested while thousands marched for Palestine in central London

9 March 2024, 14:02 | Updated: 9 March 2024, 18:44

Thousands have gathered in London to call for a ceasefire in Gaza
Thousands have gathered in London to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Picture: Getty/Met police

By Emma Soteriou and Chay Quinn

A counter-protestor carrying a placard reading 'Hamas is terrorist' was mobbed and then arrested at a pro-Palestine march in central London today.

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Iranian Niyak Ghorbani, 37, waved the sign during the demonstration before marchers turned on him and he was engaged in a brawl with protesters.

Mr Ghorbani was then mobbed by police after the demonstrators fought with him over the sign - and was then arrested.

Five others were also arrested on a day where thousands of pro-Palestine protesters have marched across London in a call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The brawl came amidst a sizeable counter-demonstration of pro-Israeli marchers in London.

A Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) march is taking place in central London - marking the fifth major demonstration of the year so far.

People at a counter-protest to the pro-Palestine marches, in Victoria, central London. Picture date: Saturday March 9, 2024.
People at a counter-protest to the pro-Palestine marches, in Victoria, central London. Picture date: Saturday March 9, 2024. Picture: Alamy

The group said it was expecting "hundreds of thousands of people" to march from Hyde Park Corner to the US Embassy.

Demonstrators could be heard chanting "Free Palestine", "What do we want? Ceasefire; when do we want it? Now", and the controversial slogan "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free".

Others waved Palestine flags and carried banners which read "Stop the war on Gaza" and "Ceasefire now".

Singer Charlotte Church joins protesters as they gather to march in support of Gaza
Singer Charlotte Church joins protesters as they gather to march in support of Gaza. Picture: Getty

Among the crowd is singer Charlotte Church, who said she joined the protest to "show solidarity with the people of Palestine for all that they are suffering through".

"I am here today to call for an immediate ceasefire, to ask our government and governments all over the world to send as strong message as we possibly can," she said.

"But a strong, a peaceful a loving message, that's what every single march that I've been on for Palestine has been about.

Protesters in London
Protesters in London. Picture: LBC

"There's been singing there's been drumming, yes, there's been emotion, but in the majority that emotion has been love, has been compassion because that's why we're all here.

"We're all here because we cannot bear what we're witnessing. We cannot bear to see civilians, children, women slaughtered.

"And so we are here because our hearts are so full of love for the Palestinian people."

Read more: Gaza ceasefire before Ramadan 'looking tough', says Joe Biden

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Protesters near Vauxhall Bridge
Protesters near Vauxhall Bridge. Picture: Alamy

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who now sits as an independent MP, spoke outside the US embassy in Nine Elms.

"The demonstration today is enormous and we're here because we're appalled at the bombing that's still going on in Gaza," he said.

"It's all very well for Joe Biden to say they're going to build a port to deliver aid, [it would] be far better if they stopped delivering arms to Israel and made sure there was a ceasefire.

"And this demonstration is huge and there will be as many of them as it takes.

"We're also demonstrating our right to demonstrate, there's so much talk about people shouldn't be on demonstrations, well today, there's a lot of us here, all faiths, all ethnic groups, men and women, led by women, no problem, no trouble, it's a march of love."

A protest is taking place against the escalation of military action in Gaza
A protest is taking place against the escalation of military action in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

It comes after the Met revealed that it had spent £32.3 million on policing for such protests - with it putting in place a "robust policing plan" for yet another "busy weekend in the capital".

The marches have required 35,464 officer shifts and more than 5,200 officer rest days to be cancelled.

Commander Karen Findlay, who is oversee policing across London on Saturday, said people committing criminal offences during protests would be dealt with "decisively and swiftly".

Crowds marching through London
Crowds marching through London. Picture: Alamy

In a statement, Ms Findlay said: "We are clearly operating in a context where we understand our Jewish and Muslim communities continue to be highly concerned about antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crime and their own sense of safety in London.

"We recognise the very real anxiety and fear of individuals who are worried about perceived or actual threats they are subject to.

"Our role remains to police impartially, being robust in tackling hate crime and extremism, and ensuring protest is managed within the law.

"We have to police to the law as it is, not as others would wish it to be."

Protesters gather to march in support of Gaza
Protesters gather to march in support of Gaza. Picture: Getty

The government's counter-extremism tsar previously warned that London's streets have become a "no-go zone for Jews" during pro-Palestine protests.

But PSC director Ben Jamal said: "Despite further attempts by government ministers, including the Prime Minister, and Lord Walney, to demonise those protesting and suppress calls for a ceasefire, hundreds of thousands will again be taking to the streets, calling for an end to Israel's genocidal war on the Palestinian people.

"We will continue to protest until a ceasefire is called, and until there is an end to all UK complicity with Israel's decades long oppression of the Palestinian people."

A Section 12 Public Order Act has been put in place
A Section 12 Public Order Act has been put in place. Picture: Met police

The organiser of a counter-protest this weekend said such demonstrations mean "Jews can't go out in the street".

Itai Galmudy said that pro-Palestine demonstrations had created "no-go zones for Jewish people" in the capital and "ballooned into anti-Israeli hate marches".

He said he organised Saturday afternoon's counter-protest with a "collective of people that share the same frustrations" with the pro-Palestine marches.

He said he was "very concerned" that counter-protesters might encounter violence, adding that it would "probably reflect" in the number of people attending the demonstration in Victoria, central London.

Mr Galmudy said he was expecting "50-100 people maximum" to attend the counter-protest, adding "people are afraid and not everybody's willing to take the risk".

He said: "We know that those (pro-Palestine) protests are not as peaceful as some people tell us they are.

"I'm concerned for this country because letting the mob run a country is not the way. There is a law and we should all be held accountable to it."

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