“This has to stop. Violence breeds violence and hate breeds hate.”
Robert Largan, the Conservative MP for High Peak in Derbyshire, has been accused of stirring up division and fear for a comment he posted on Facebook about the recent pro-Palestine protests.
Faced by calls from senior Tories for the National March for Palestine in London on Armistice Day to be cancelled, the event’s organisers have repeatedly stressed that the march will not go near the Cenotaph, with the route being about a mile away from it.
Despite this, on November 5, Largan wrote: “It has been widely reported that yet more ‘pro-Palestinian’ protests have been planned on Armistice Day and that there is a clear and present risk to the Cenotaph and other war memorials.
“Obviously, this is utterly appalling and must not take place.”
The MP argued that the protests have dominated city centres and many train stations, causing ‘significant public disorder.’ He went on to describe the protests as ‘not merely ‘peace marches.’
“The protests have been a constant cover for anti-Jewish racism, for intimidation, for calls in support of Hamas, calls in support of genocide, calls for Jihad,” he continued.
The comments sparked criticism, with people sharing their dismay online. One Facebook user pointed out that the National March for Palestine is not scheduled to go anywhere near the Cenotaph and “to suggest that people marching for peace pose any material threat to the Cenotaph is a deliberately chosen strategy to stoke further division and hatred.
“This has to stop. Violence breeds violence and hate breeds hate,” they wrote.
In response to Largan’s comments, on November 10, a group of anti-racism and peace campaigners, gathered outside the MP’s constituency office in Whaley Bridge. Members from various organisations, including the Green Party, High Peak Stand Up To Racism, and the global network of women committed to peace, Women In Black, held banners calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and for Largan to stop what they referred to as ‘spreading fear and division.’
The demonstration was well-received in the community, with many locals stopping and sharing their support for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
In reference to the Suella Braverman’s ‘hate marchers’ comments this week, and her ‘divisive’ op-ed in the Times, in which she accused the police of being biased towards protest groups, one banner called for both Largan and Braverman to ‘stop your hate speech.’
Linda Walker, secretary of High Peak Stand Up to Racism, attended the demonstration. She told Left Foot Forward that she had written to the MP about his position on the conflict and had received an “appalling response.”
“With the horrible comments he has been making online, he is obviously not bothered about anti-Muslim sentiment,” she said.
Women In Black member, Jane Reynolds, spoke of how many Israelis are getting frustrated with the Israeli government. “We are not hearing about in the media, is the anger among Israelis,” she said.
John Decarteret, a member of the Green Party, said he was at the protest because he was “horrified that peace campaigners are being characterised by the government as hate marchers.”
“We would like an immediate ceasefire, how can that be considered hateful,” he asked.
Left Foot Forward contacted Robert Largan for comment and have yet to have a reply.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward