An Armistice Day pro-Palestine demonstration is expected to go ahead after the Metropolitan Police chief said there were no grounds for a ban.
Every Saturday since the 7 October attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, pro-Palestinian protesters have demonstrated in London and around the UK "to voice their opposition to the devastating impact of Israel's response on Palestinian civilians, thousands of whom have died", said Archie Bland in The Guardian.
Organisers have estimated that over half a million people have attended these rallies, while police have put the figure at 70,000. "But the most urgent disagreement has been over the nature of the demonstrations: whether they have been violent, intimidating, or driven by antisemitism."
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'Marches are peaceful'
With a "huge spike" in reported antisemitic incidents since the attacks, some British Jews "have said that they find the marches intimidating." But this is "not a monolithic view" with left-wing Jewish groups among those on the protests, said The Guardian's Bland. And many who have joined the marches "say they have been peaceful, with a clear focus on the demand for protection for ordinary Palestinians".
Organisers of the march have also said that the timing of the protest is purely "coincidental", and have said "that a march calling for a ceasefire can hardly be said to run against the spirit of remembrance events".
They have also pointed out that the march will begin two hours after the 11am two-minute silence on Saturday, with the most significant remembrance events occurring on Sunday.
'Invoke draconian powers'
Rishi Sunak, however, has said the protest should not go ahead on Armistice Day, dubbing the march "provocative and disrespectful". Home Secretary Suella Braverman, meanwhile, has branded the protests "hate marches".
But Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley has said such protests can only be banned in extreme circumstances – and in any case, the police could not stop from people gathering, only from marching.
"The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protests, therefore there will be a protest this weekend," he said, adding: "The law provides no mechanism to ban a static gathering of people".
Sunak has said the Metropolitan Police will be held "accountable" for the marches going ahead, reported The Times.
Rowley's refusal to ban the march makes the Metropolitan Police look "weak", said the Daily Mail. "By failing to clamp down on criminal activity during the marches, senior officers have encouraged Islamist extremists to flex their muscles," the paper continued.
Now counter-demonstrations are being whipped up online by the EDL's "odious founder" Tommy Robinson. "The truth is, if the police had taken a much firmer line from the start against those preaching violence and racial hatred, this potentially explosive confrontation might have been averted," said the paper.
It will now be for ministers to decide "whether to invoke draconian powers to try to stop the protest from going ahead", said Politico, which would be "effectively by ruling that the police are failing to discharge their duties". And "needless to say", such a move would be "highly controversial".
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