Hundreds of thousands gather in London for National March for Palestine – Ceasefire Now

Participants are assembling in Hyde Park at noon.

Anti-war campaigners are gathering in central London in their droves today, to participate in the National March for Palestine – Ceasefire Now.

Coaches have been put on to transport people from cities across the country to London. Participants are assembling in Hyde Park at noon. They will then march to the US Embassy in opposition to US president Joe Biden’s support for the Israeli military’s response to the Hamas attacks of October 7, which saw 1,400 people killed and 200 hostages taken.

The purpose of the mass demonstration is to demand an immediate ceasefire. Today’s protest is one of a number of pro-Palestine demonstrations that have taken place across the country since the latest conflict between Israel and Palestine broke out.

Today’s event is being organised by several organisations that call for peace and solidarity with Palestine, including Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Palestinian Forum in Britain, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Taking place on Armistice Day, the march has attracted intense scrutiny in Britain. The organisers faced calls from the Metropolitan Police – under pressure from the government – to cancel the march on the grounds that it may clash with remembrance services taking place in London over the weekend. The organisers reassured that the march route will avoid the Cenotaph in Whitehall and other commemorative locations.

The Met’s commissioner, Mark Rowley, said there were no grounds to cancel it and gave the rally the green light.

“The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protest,” said Rowley, adding that the demonstrators had shown a “complete willingness to stay away from the Cenotaph and Whitehall and have no intention of disrupting the nation’s remembrance events.”

The Met’s position angered senior Tories who were calling for a ban on the march. The Prime Minister vowed to hold Rowley, “accountable” for his defiance of demands for a for a ban.

A spokesperson for Sunak said: “To plan these sorts of protests in and around Armistice Day is provocative, it’s disrespectful. Should memorials be desecrated or should we see some of the instances of racial hatred for which there were arrests at the weekend be expressed on these days? I think that would be an affront to the British public.”

The Home Secretary attempted to characterise the demonstrations as “hate marches” and “mobs” that threaten the Jewish community. The comments attracted intense criticism, with Braverman accused of stoking division and undermining the police. Her commitment to free speech was also called into question, with people asking why some public gatherings should not be banned when they are offensive.

Palestinian Solidarity Campaign said: “We are alarmed by members of the government, including the prime minister, issuing statements suggesting that the march is a direct threat to the Cenotaph and designed to disrupt the Remembrance Day commemorations.

“Such statements are encouraging the calls from far-rights activists and commentators who appear to be inciting action on the streets to stop the protests taking place and are deeply irresponsible.

“Given the wider context of the previous statements by the home secretary seeking to demonise all of those marching in support of the rights of the Palestinian people, it is clear that these further statements are motivated by a desire to suppress widespread public support for an end to Israel’s bombardment of the people of Gaza.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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