Thousands demand immediate ceasefire in Gaza at London pro-Palestinian march

Around 1,700 police officers patrolled the demonstration in the centre of London.

Joseph Draper
Saturday 13 January 2024 21:16 GMT
The National March for Palestine took place in central London (Lucy North/PA)
The National March for Palestine took place in central London (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

Thousands of pro-Palestine protesters took to the streets of London on Saturday, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Around 1,700 police officers patrolled the capital as the march made its way to Parliament Square, arresting a total of nine people.

Three people were arrested on suspicion of showing support for a proscribed organisation, which is an offence under the Terrorism Act, by distributing leaflets.

There were three arrests for inciting racial hatred – one related to a placard and two for chanting – while there were a further two arrests for racially aggravated public order offences.

A ninth arrest was made for possession of stickers to be used for criminal damage.

The protest, part of a global day of action involving 30 countries, came after the UK and US carried out air strikes against Houthi bases in Yemen.

The Iran-backed rebel group has repeatedly targeted commercial shipping in the Red Sea in the wake of Israel’s war against Hamas following the October 7 attack.

Several protesters made references to the military action, with one man holding a placard claiming the UK and US “want war” and that Yemen “supports Palestine”, while one speaker told crowds at Parliament Square that RAF planes were “flying where they do not belong”.

Other speakers at the packed event included former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the president of Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald, who called for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire”.

Ms McDonald told crowds that Palestinian freedom was possible, saying: “When I say this, standing in London, in common cause with you, (having) walked our own journey out of conflict, building peace for 25 years, this can happen.

“This must happen and we will ensure that it does.”

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, accused the British Government of “complicity” with Israel.

He said Palestine was a “nation of freedom fighters”, saying: “I stand before you with a broken heart, but not a broken spirit.”

Mr Zomlot congratulated South Africa for bringing a genocide case against Israel at the UN’s International Court of Justice.

The seventh National March for Palestine also featured an appearance by Little Amal, a giant puppet of a Syrian child refugee, which joined a group of Palestinian children.

The 3.5-metre (around 11.5ft) puppet became an international symbol of human rights after it journeyed 5,000 miles from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester in July 2021.

Speaking before the march, Home Secretary James Cleverly said he had been briefed by the Met’s commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on plans to “ensure order and safety” during the protest.

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