Met Police could ban pro-Palestinian march on Armistice Day

There are fears that protesters could disrupt the two-minute silence commemorating the war dead next Saturday.

George Lithgow
Monday 06 November 2023 00:02 GMT

Related video: 'The victims are sending us their final messages': Pro-Palestinian protesters march through London

Police are considering whether to ban a controversial pro-Palestinian march in London planned for Armistice Day.

Scotland Yard said it would use “all powers and tactics” at its disposal to prevent disruption, including Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986, which allows the banning of a procession when there is a risk of serious disorder.

Thousands of officers will be deployed in an extensive security operation and we will use all powers and tactics at our disposal to ensure that anyone intent on disrupting it will not succeed

Met Commander Karen Findlay

Met Commander Karen Findlay said: “We fully appreciate the national significance of Armistice Day. Thousands of officers will be deployed in an extensive security operation and we will use all powers and tactics at our disposal to ensure that anyone intent on disrupting it will not succeed.”

The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which is usually attended by members of the royal family, will take place on Saturday, with a two-minute silence observed at 11am.

Remembrance Sunday events will take place at the Cenotaph in Westminster the following day.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, organisers of the planned demonstration, has pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph is located.

The planned route will take them from Hyde Park – about a mile from the Cenotaph – to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames.

It is for the Met to prove the threshold for a Section 13 has been met before seeking approval from the Home Secretary to sign off on a ban.

It is unlikely there would be any resistance to agreeing a ban from Suella Braverman, who has previously labelled the pro-Palestine demonstrations “hate marches”, highlighting how some participants had chanted “jihad” and were “calling for the erasure of Israel”.

The Cabinet minister said last week that there is “an obvious risk of serious public disorder, violence and damage, as well as giving offence to millions of decent British people” if protests go ahead on Armistice Day.

In a statement on Sunday night, Scotland Yard said: “We recognise the terrible events in Israel and Gaza continue to have an impact on communities across London and recognise there is significant concern.

“The Met has an important role to play in making sure London is a safe place for everybody and over the past four weeks we have dedicated thousands of officers to reassuring communities, policing protests and dealing with anyone who breaks the law.

“We continue to work with protest organisers to ensure they are lawful, whilst balancing the concerns of other communities.

“Our most experienced and knowledgeable commanders are working on the policing of these events, making sure we are utilising all legislation to its fullest extent.

“Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986 allows for the banning of a procession when there is a risk of serious disorder. It has to be approved by a Secretary of State.

“Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allow for conditions to be imposed to processions and public assembly to prevent serious disruption. We have used this legislation over recent weeks and will continue to use any legislation necessary to keep people safe.”

In a statement, the protest organisers said: “We have made clear that we have no intention of marching on or near Whitehall, in order not to disrupt events at the Cenotaph.”

They added that “we are alarmed by members of the Government, including the Prime Minster, issuing statements suggesting that the march is a direct threat to the Cenotaph and designed to disrupt the Remembrance Day commemorations”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed concern about the protest and Mrs Braverman said any protesters who vandalise the Cenotaph should be “put into a jail cell faster than their feet can touch the ground”.

Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, which allow for conditions to be imposed on marches but fall short of a ban, have already been used by the Met.

A Section 13 order would allow Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley commissioner, with the consent of Mrs Braverman, to make an order prohibiting “the holding of all public processions” if he “reasonably believes” the powers under Section 12 will not be sufficient.

Sir Mark has promised to take a “robust approach” and use “all the powers available” to ensure commemorative events are “not undermined”.

Pressure group Campaign Against Antisemitism called on Sir Mark to use his powers under Section 13 to ban the march.

“Section 13 powers allow the police to prohibit processions if other powers under the Act do not suffice to prevent serious public disorder. As we have seen over the past month, that threshold is now met,” the group said.

“As we approach Remembrance weekend, where we remember the heroes who defended our freedoms and fought against antisemitic hatred, we must honour their memory by banning demonstrations that abuse those freedoms to call for violence against Jews.”

Four police officers were attacked with fireworks during Saturday’s pro-Palestine protest after thousands of demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square.

Protesters climbed on the square’s famous fountains as the mostly peaceful group waved flags and banners. There were six arrests.

Ms Findlay said the Met would be “sharper” in its response at future protests.

She said: “We will take action on any placards being carried at protests which are inflammatory and incite racial hatred, or purport to be supporting a proscribed organisation.

“These are offences and any such banners or material will be assessed by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.

“As in recent weeks, we have been speaking to the organisers of the pro-Palestine march to discuss yesterday’s demonstrations. We will continue to speak to them across this week as part of our ongoing planning for the weekend’s Remembrance events and will monitor and review all information available to us.”

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