500 police deployed for protests in London amid tensions over Israel-Gaza war

The Metropolitan Police revealed details of a major policing operation ahead of the demonstrations

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Friday 05 April 2024 17:38 BST
Demonstrators take part in the annual Al Quds day march in support of Palestine in London on Friday
Demonstrators take part in the annual Al Quds day march in support of Palestine in London on Friday (Lucy North/PA Wire)

More than 500 officers are being deployed in central London to police an annual march in support of Palestine and a pro-Isreal counter protest outside the House of Parliament.

The Metropolitan Police announced details of a major policing operation ahead of the demonstrations on Friday amid tensions over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Protestors must not “cross the line into criminality”, the Metropolitan Police has warned, adding that the force will “police without fear or favour right up to the line of the law”.

The force said it has been in discussion with the organisers of both demonstrations – which are each subject to conditions under the Public Order Act.

The annual Al Quds day march in support of Palestine, which is organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and takes place on the final Friday of Ramadan, must stick to a pre-agreed route and end at 7pm.

Demonstrators will gather outside the Home Office in Marsham Street from 3pm, before heading into Horseferry Road, along Millbank, past the front of the Houses of Parliament and finishing in Whitehall where speeches will take place.

The second demonstration is a pro-Israel counter protest. This will take the form of a static demonstration in Parliament Square and protestors must stay with a specified zone in Parliament Square, the Met said.

The force said it will be distributing leaflets to protestors clearly setting out what is acceptable within the law after a string of arrests at pro-Palestine marches since the Israel-Gaza conflict broke out last October.

Commander Colin Wingrove, who is leading the policing operation, said: “The conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to have a far reaching impact across communities including here in London.

“We recognise that there will be some who feel this march should not be allowed to take place at all.

“We work to the law. Parliament has determined that there are only very rare and specific circumstances when an application can be made to the Home Secretary for a protest to be banned. It requires a real risk of serious disorder and neither the intelligence picture nor the conversations we have had with organisers give us reason to believe that threshold will be met today.

“The rights of people to express their views through protest must be protected and our officers will ensure they are, but anyone who abuses those rights and uses them as an opportunity to commit offences or to promote hate can expect to face police action.”

He added: “There have been a number of instances at protests in recent months where actions have taken place that are distasteful to many, but that don’t cross the line into criminality. Our role is to police without fear or favour right up to the line of the law, but our powers do not extend to policing taste and decency, no matter our view of what is being said.

“Where that line into criminality is crossed, we will step in. Anyone seen to be supporting a proscribed group, using hate speech, trying to directly interfere with the other protest or committing other offences will be dealt with by officers.”

The warnings come after the Mayor of London in 2019 raised “deep concerns” over support shown for Lebanese militant Hezbollah group at previous Al Quds marches.

In a joint letter to Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on Wednesday, organisers the IHRC and other pro-Palestinian groups accused the Met of “politically-driven policing”, saying the force had “regularly abused its legal powers to harass pro-Palestine protestors”.

On Saturday, the Met made four arrests, including one on suspicion of a terrorism-related offence, at a pro-Palestinian protest in central London, which saw more than 200,000 people take part.

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