Tens of thousands march through London calling for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war

Clashes broke out between protesters and police, with two people arrested

Holly Evans
Saturday 28 October 2023 22:13 BST
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Protesters chant 'free Palestine' through London in demonstration calling for ceasefire

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have marched through central London demanding an end to the Israel-Hamas war.

Around 100,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered holding banners and fireworks and flares were set off as the mostly peaceful group of demonstrators snaked through the closed-off roads in Westminster on Saturday afternoon.

Punches and kicks were thrown as police clashed with some protesters close to Downing Street. Demonstrators were told to move away as a man was taken to the floor and carried away to chants of “let him go”.

The Metropolitan Police said on Saturday night that nine arrests were made at the rally. Seven of those were alleged public order offences, a number of which are being treated as hate crimes, while two are for suspected assaults on officers.

One man was arrested on Whitehall after an officer was assaulted and taken to hospital for a laceration to the head. Another man was detained in Waterloo Road on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and making threats to kill.

Counter-demonstrations were also taking place on Saturday, with dozens of people with Union flags standing close to the Cenotaph on Whitehall, drawing chants of “shame on you” from pro-Palestinian marchers.

It was not immediately clear whether those arrested were taking part in the protest or a counter-demonstration.

Police also issued an appeal to identify two women in connection with an alleged hate crime incident in Trafalgar Square.

Protests are taking place across Glasgow, Dublin, Manchester and London in support of Palestine

More than 1,000 Metropolitan Police officers had been deployed across London for the rally, which was demanding an end to bombing in Gaza that has seen thousands of civilians killed in the past three weeks.

Large crowds gathered around the Embankment, Whitehall, the Strand, Westminster and Waterloo Bridge, while several conditions have been imposed under the Public Order Act.

They included that protesters should follow a specified route and should not gather in a specified area outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, west London.

A woman was knocked over by a police horse after the animal was startled by fireworks during the march, but appeared to be fine when she was brought back to her feet.

Some protesters chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, despite the controversy around the slogan’s meaning, while a sound system led people to chant “Stop arming Israel. Stop bombing Gaza” and “We are all Palestinian”.

More than 200 demonstrators chanting “ceasefire now” also carried out a sit-in at Waterloo station, echoing the one that took place in New York’s Grand Central station on Friday evening.

Ahead of the protest, the Metropolitan Police warned: “There is absolutely no place in London for hate crime.

“Officers will respond to any criminality where they see it and take decisive action, but there may be things not seen in the moment.

“We’ll also be reviewing CCTV and images/video shared by the public to identify offences.”

Police were expecting around 100,000 to participate in the march

They added that officers would intervene if protesters used the word “jihad”.

At a briefing ahead of Saturday’s march, Kyle Gordon, who is leading the Met’s command team, said: “If somebody is calling for jihad specifically against Israel the officers will intervene, gather the information and report it back to us.”

A Section 60 and Section 60AA authority was put in place until midnight, giving police stop and search powers in the London boroughs of the City of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.

Rallies were held in other parts of the UK calling for a ceasefire, including in Manchester and Glasgow. Around 3,000 gathered in Belfast for a rally which walked along Royal Avenue to City Hall, while a demonstration is due to take place in Bristol on Sunday.

Pro-Palestinian protesters at the march in London

Protests also took place outside of Britain, with a large crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanting slogans outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Addressing hundreds of thousands of supporters at a huge rally in Istanbul, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said Israel was an occupier, while rallies in Baghdad and the West Bank called for the boycott of Israeli goods.

People also took to the streets of Copenhagen, Rome and Stockholm, while a large demonstration was held in Wellington, New Zealand.

Protesters on Westminster Bridge as thousands in cities around the world took to streets to oppose the war

The global rallies come after Israel intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip and said it was moving to the “next stage” of the war, with its military warning citizens to evacuate the northern area immediately.

Israel also knocked out communications and created a near-blackout of information, largely cutting off the 2.3 million people in besieged Gaza from contact with the outside world.

Gaza officials have said the death toll in the enclave has climbed to 7,650 since Israel’s bombardment began in response to the attack by Hamas militants on 7 October, which Israel said killed 1,400 people.

The UK government’s position, backed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, has been to push for “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid into Gaza and to allow people, including 200 trapped British nationals, to escape the territory.

Mr Starmer is facing pressure to change tack after a number of senior Labour figures, including London mayor Sadiq Khan, came out in support of a ceasefire.

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