London pro-Palestine march turns ugly as protesters clash with police, setting off flares and fireworks, as 15 arrested

14 October 2023, 13:36 | Updated: 14 October 2023, 23:20

Scenes from the London pro-Palestine march on Saturday
Scenes from the London pro-Palestine march on Saturday. Picture: LBC

By Emma Soteriou

Thousands of pro-Palestine supporter gathered to march through cities across the UK, with some setting off flares and fireworks in central London, as officers made 15 arrests.

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Palestine flags and supportive placards were waved as people chanted, with Metropolitan Police and community support officers stationed nearby.

More than 1,000 officers were deployed to police the thousands gathering to show solidarity with Palestine amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

Marchers made their way down Whitehall to a stage outside Downing Street.

People could be heard shouting "Rishi Sunak, shame on you" and "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" among the crowd.

The London protest was supposed to last from midday to about 3pm, but was still going on by 6pm.

Some protesters clashed with police, as bouts of angry shoving took place. There were also unverified reports of bottles thrown at officers.

Dozens of police officers were stationed outside the gates to the Prime Minister's residence as others patrolled the large crowd.

Fifteen people were arrested, with four of the arrests for not removing face coverings after being instructed to by police.

Two people were arrested for public order offences and one was detained for criminal damage.

Other offences included assaults on emergency workers and setting off fireworks in a public place.

Pro-Palestine supporters make their way down Whitehall

Read more: Israel extends deadline for more than a million Palestinians to flee northern Gaza

Read more: 'People who deviate will be arrested': Met issues warning ahead of pro-Palestine protests in London over weekend

One protester at the march said that the Israel-Hamas conflict is "entirely one-sided".

Speaking on Regent Street, Mike, 55, from north-west London, said: "The injustice of the situation is just totally outstanding.

"Gaza has been under siege for 17 years and the conflict is entirely one-sided, and yet the media are presenting it as though it's some kind of equal struggle or that Israel's response is a justified response to terrorism.

"(There was) not a single word about the terrorism of the Israeli state over the last few decades."

People walk down Regent Street as they take part in a 'March For Palestine'
People walk down Regent Street as they take part in a 'March For Palestine'. Picture: Getty

Flares in the national colours of red, green and black were set off early on the route, while chants of "Free, free Palestine" could be heard as people made their way through the centre of the capital.

The Met tweeted: "We are aware of people lighting flares/fireworks within the group. This is clearly a danger to them and those around them.

"Action will be taken when we identify those in possession of/throwing them."

Rallies were also held in Manchester, Edinburgh and other parts of the UK, with huge crowds gathering to show their support.

Pro-Palestine Glasgow rally

It comes after the BBC's headquarters in London was earlier targeted and daubed in red paint.

The broadcaster has faced criticism throughout the week for maintaining its editorial stance not to describe Hamas as terrorists.

But the Metropolitan Police said the incident has so far not been linked to any protest group.

People wave Palestinian flags as they walk down Regent Street
People wave Palestinian flags as they walk down Regent Street. Picture: Getty

It comes as the deadline for civilians to evacuate northern Gaza nears, with more than a million being forced to flee.

Civilians should "take advantage of the short time to move south" from Beit Hanoun to Khan Yunis, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Avichay Adraee said.

Israel is preparing to launch a ground invasion, having already carried out a series of localised raids in Gaza overnight.

Strikes have levelled entire city blocks, and Gaza has been sealed off from food, water and medical supplies - all under a virtual total power blackout.

The UN has called on Israel to reverse the unprecedented directive, with secretary general Antonio Guterres saying the situation has reached a "new low".

Protesters during a March for Palestine in London
Protesters during a March for Palestine in London. Picture: Alamy

The march, organised by groups including Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), has been set up to call for both Israel and Hamas to be judged equally by international law.

PSC said in a statement that telling those in the north of Gaza to leave is "not a humanitarian gesture".

"Statements by the leaders of the main political parties in the UK giving unqualified support for Israel's actions, including the commission of war crimes, is giving Israel the green light to move ahead with the mass slaughter of civilians and contributing to the widespread dehumanisation of Palestinians in political discourse here in the UK," they said.

PSC director Ben Jamal told LBC that there would be protests every week until the conflict comes to an end.

"This was a demonstration that we organised at very, very short notice," he said. "We expect, unfortunately, to have to be demonstrating every week over the next few weeks – potentially over the next few months – and we expect the support for these demonstrations to grow."

On Saturday afternoon, Metropolitan police announced it had introduced powers which require the removal of any items which conceal identity, such as balaclavas and face masks, until 10pm across the protest route and its surrounding areas.

Security forces stand guard as red paint is seen at the entrance to the BBC building in London
Security forces stand guard as red paint is seen at the entrance to the BBC building in London. Picture: Getty

A spokesperson for the force previously said: “We are expecting thousands of people to travel to central London tomorrow to make their voices heard in a March for Palestine.

“More than 1,000 officers will be on duty to police the march, in addition to officers across the capital, and will work alongside stewards and organisers.”

Protesters have also been warned that waving a Hamas flag, a designated terrorist organisation in the UK, will lead to an arrest.

“Our role as an independent and impartial service is to balance the right to lawful protest with potential disruption to Londoners," Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, who is responsible for policing in London this weekend, said.

“People do not have the right to incite violence or hatred. The law is clear that support for proscribed organisations is illegal.

“Anyone with a flag in support of Hamas or any other proscribed terrorist organisation will be arrested.“We will not tolerate the celebration of terrorism or death, or tolerate anyone inciting violence.”

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