Tens of thousands take to the streets of London for pro-Palestine protest

Protesters sing pro-Palestine chants and call for an end to bombing of Gaza

Matt Mathers
Saturday 21 October 2023 19:05 BST
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Palestine supporters march towards Downing Street as thousands gather in London

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of central London on Saturday afternoon to show their support for Palestinians caught up in the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel.

Demonstrators sang pro-Palestine songs and waved placards calling for an end to Israel’s bombing of Gaza in response to Hamas’s terror attack earlier this month.

Some of those present sang “from the river to sea, Palestine will be free” – a chant that Jewish community leaders have described as antisemitic. Those who defend the slogan describe it as a “long-standing protest chant” that calls for a homeland for the Palestinian people.

Others called for an end to Israel’s occupation of territories in the West Bank, holding signs saying “Freedom for Palestine”. People were also heard singing “Judaism yes, Zionism no, the state of Israel must go”, and “5, 6, 7, 8, Israel is a terrorist state”.

Ahead of the protest, James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, reiterated the UK’s support of Israel’s right to defend itself. He also called on Israel to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza and urged the country’s defence forces to act with “discipline” in its response to the Hamas attack.

(AFP/Getty)

He warned that failure to show restraint could spark wider instability in the Middle East at a time of heightened political tensions around the globe.

“The UK is clear and has been consistently clear that Israel has the right to self-defence and the right to secure the release of those who are kidnapped on 7 October,” he told an international peace summit in Cairo, Egypt.

“And we are also clear that we must work, and they must work, to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza, and that their actions are in accordance with international law.”

His comments came as the first of a convoy of aid was finally allowed into besieged Gaza through the border with Egypt, known as the Rafah crossing. The frontier was opened on Saturday morning to let desperately needed aid flow to Palestinians running short of food, medicine and water in the territory.

More than 200 trucks carrying roughly 3,000 tons of aid had been positioned near the crossing for days before heading into Gaza, but only a handful have so far been let through. On the Gaza side of the border, hundreds of foreign passport holders have been trying to leave the besieged territory.

Protesters in central London (AFP/Getty)

Back in London, the Metropolitan Police said that, as of 2pm, up to 100,000 people had joined the protest, which was organised by the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

A small group of pro-Palestinian protesters held a separate demonstration in central London on Saturday calling for “Muslim armies” to rescue the people of Palestine.

The group of around 100 people stood on Balfour Mews, just off the street from the path of the main protest. Speakers addressed the crowd in Arabic. A large banner read “Muslim armies, rescue the people of Palestine”.

The number of dead in Gaza rose to 4,385 on Saturday, with 13,651 injured since the conflict between Hamas and Israel escalated two weeks ago, the Palestinian health ministry said. The dead included 1,756 children and 976 women.

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