Police urge organisers to cancel Armistice weekend protests

Police urge organisers to cancel Armistice weekend protests

Britain’s biggest police force is urging protest organisers not to hold demonstrations on Armistice Day or Remembrance Sunday amid concerns about breakaway groups causing violence.

Objections have been raised to a pro-Palestinian march planned for Saturday, although it will not go near the Cenotaph.

The Metropolitan Police said senior officers had held a meeting with various groups on Monday but they had refused to cancel the event.

Stop The War Coalition, which is one of six groups organising the demonstration, said they were “determined to go ahead” and described the Met’s intervention as an attempt to deny their civil liberties.

Israel-Hamas conflict
A series of Pro-Palestinian protests have already been held around the UK (Peter Morrison/PA)

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan, who leads public order policing in the English capital, said: “The risk of violence and disorder linked to breakaway groups is growing.

“This is of concern ahead of a significant and busy weekend in the capital.

“Our message to organisers is clear: please, we ask you to urgently reconsider. It is not appropriate to hold any protests in London this weekend.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman welcomed the Met’s statement.

“The hate marchers need to understand that decent British people have had enough of these displays of thuggish intimidation and extremism,” she said.

Lindsey German, of Stop the War, said: “We met the police today and argued that we wanted to march and were determined to go ahead.

“We believe that this is a denial of our civil liberties and our freedom of expression.

“The brutal onslaught on Gaza is being protested across the world. We have had huge demos on Palestine and we continue to do so.

“We will not be silenced.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog told TalkTV the planned march was “atrocious”, adding: “I call upon all decent human beings to object to the march and ban it, because the symbol of that day is a symbol of victory.

“And it is a symbol of doing good, because when you fight evil, sometimes you have to fight. You have to fight evil in order to uproot evil.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said police have the Government’s “absolute and total backing” to tackle criminality and maintain order.

Speaking to broadcasters on Monday, the Prime Minister said: “Remembrance Day is a time for national reflection.

“It is a time when I know the whole country will come together to pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe.

“I want to make sure police have our absolute and total backing to clamp down on any acts of criminality, but also to ensure public order.”

The Met said officers would use “all powers and tactics” at their 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.

Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman welcomed the statement from the Metropolitan Police (Yui Mok/PA)

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 Home Secretary chaired a meeting on Monday morning to discuss police plans for protests over the next few months, including the potential risk of further escalation.

Attendees included senior Met leaders and representatives from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence, according to the Home Office.

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 at 11am.

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

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, organiser 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.

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

Wreaths at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday last year
Wreaths at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday last year (Yui Mok/PA)

There is unlikely to be any resistance to a ban from Ms Braverman, who 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.

Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi – a long-standing critic of the Home Secretary – accused her of being “dangerous”.

She told Sky News: “I have been speaking to the protesters and I’ve been saying to them, when your Home Secretary starts to become dangerous and divisive and isn’t keeping communities together, then communities need to step up and be the responsible ones.

“And if that means that you have to think about postponing, then you’re going to have to be the adults in the room. ”

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.

“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.”

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

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