Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have taken to the streets of London with banners and posters for a third consecutive weekend of demonstrations as they call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war.
Activists, who chanted ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning, have been told to stick together and not to talk or interact with the police.
The chant is a controversial form of protest which has been condemned as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic – something Palestinians and their supporters deny.
The Met Police is preparing for more than 100,000 demonstrators to descend on the capital in a fresh round of protests which is taking place on a day in which Israeli tanks have rolled into Gaza as a full ground invasion looms.
The march, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, set off from Victoria Embankment at midday and is due to finish at Parliament Square at 4pm.
Protesters took to the streets waving Palestinian flags, chanting ‘Free, Free Palestine’ and ‘Israel is a terrorist state’. Others held placards up which read ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and ‘Stop bombing Gaza’.
Protesters hold up placards as they gather to take part in a ‘March For Palestine’ in London today
Activists waving Palestinian flags march down the River Thames in London as a fresh round of protests takes place today
Protesters during a pro-Palestine march organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign in central London today
Demonstrators have taken to the streets for a third weekend running to call for a ceasefire in the Middle East
The Met Police has deployed thousands of officers to help deal with the hundreds of thousands of protesters expected. Pictured: Protesters during today’s march in London
Police are seen outside the Embassy of Israel ahead of a pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London. A ring of steel will be formed around the Embassy
Demonstrators, including campaigners and families, will march down the River Thames, crossing over Westminster Bridge to the Southbank before heading to The Strand back over Waterloo Bridge and finishing at Whitehall.
The Met, who will deploy thousands of officers, have said that they will ‘intervene’ if protests shout ‘jihad’ during the demonstrations, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the force ‘will do everything in its power to tackle hate’.
A video emerged of a pro-Palestinian protester chanting ‘jihad’ at one event but officers had said no offences were identified in the footage from the demonstration.
Yesterday, the Met stopped short of vowing they would arrest people saying the term, saying only that they would ‘intervene’.
Ahead of the weekend, Kyle Gordon, who is leading the force’s command team, told a press briefing: ‘If somebody is calling for jihad specifically against Israel the officers will intervene, gather the information, report it back into us and we’ll be working with colleagues (from counter-terrorism) in relation to what the best course of action is.’
The Met, who will form a ring of steel around the Israeli Embassy again today, has also issued a fresh appeal in the hunt for people with photos of paragliding terrorists and a ‘I support Hamas‘ sign at previous marches.
There have also been calls to clampdown on the ‘from the river to the sea chant’, which Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick previously said ‘envisages explicitly the erasure of Israel from the map’.
The chant has been widely heard at pro-Palestine demonstrations against Israel’s retaliatory military action in Gaza. The Met has allowed the chant despite the Home Secretary asking them to crack down on anti-Semitic slogans.
Suella Braverman last week described the chant as a ‘staple of anti-Semitic discord’ and was ‘widely understood as a demand for the destruction of Israel’.
Protesters take to the streets of London to support Palestinians who are caught in a war between Israel and Hamas
People gather for a National March for Palestine organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
More than 1,000 police officers are out on the streets of London today for the big march through the capital
A woman holds up a placard demanding a ceasefire in the Middle East as Israel seeks revenge for Hamas’ attacks
This is the route that protesters will take, starting at Victoria Embankment and ending at Parliament Square
Police officers prepare to barricade off access to the Israeli Embassy. Parts of Kensington High Street will be closed today
Huge concrete blocks are being put in front of the entrance to the road which leads to the Israeli Embassy
Meanwhile, Mr Jenrick said last week: ‘I don’t think there is any place for that chant on the streets of the UK. That is a highly incendiary chant, which is extremely intimidating to British Jews.
‘I think a lot of people would be surprised by the Metropolitan Police’s analysis of that issue. And that’s something that we’re going to discuss with the police.’
It comes after police warned that Iranian agents are hijacking Britain’s UK pro-Palestinian protests.
Counterterrorism officers have held private discussions about Iran trying to stoke protests over Israel’s bombing of Gaza and have warned of increased hostile state activity in the UK.
The Times has learnt that it is directly linked to the Iranian regime and features spreading disinformation online, while Iranian agents are understood to be attending marches.
Iran has been accused of playing a role in funding the Hamas and of stoking tensions in the Middle East by celebrating the barbaric attacks launched by the terrorists on Israel three weeks ago.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has also warned activists marching on London and other British cities to beware fake news from Iran.
More than 100,000 demonstrators are preparing to take to the streets of London today for a third weekend running. Pictured: Pro-Palestine protesters in London on October 21
Demonstrators participate in a pro-Palestine rally on October 21. A fresh round of marches start today
Pro-Palestine demonstrators light flares and wave flags on Nelson’s Column in London on October 21
Police clash with protesters in Trafalgar Square. Thousands of officers will be on hand today
Mr Cleverly told reporters this morning: ‘Many people will recognise that there has often been attempts to subvert the actions of other people – it is perfectly possible to support the Palestinian people but also to condemn Hamas.
‘But sadly we do see people being manipulated, subject to disinformation, distortion and sadly I do think a small minority within those protests have got very much more negative aims.
‘I would say to everyone involved in the protests – be conscious of disinformation and manipulation.’
Today’s march comes amid a 1,357 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents and a 168 per cent spike in Islamophobic incidents.
There were 408 anti-Semitic incidents between October 1 and yesterday, compared with 28 during the same period last year, the Met revealed.
Stephen Silverman, of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said calling for jihad following the October 7 massacres of 1,400 people in Israel was ‘extremely likely to be an offence of glorifying terrorism’.
People wave Palestine flags and let off flares as they participate in a March for Palestine on October 21
Thousands of protesters march through central London to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian people and demand an immediate ceasefire to end the war on Gaza on October 21
He added: ‘The public expects the Met to make arrests, not excuses.’
A stand-off approach last Saturday put the Met and Downing Street at odds, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying such chants were a threat to the Jewish community and our democratic values.
A spokesman for Labour Against Anti-Semitism said: ‘In the context of the Israel/Palestinian conflict, jihad only has one meaning and that is the violence of holy war.
‘Allowing people to call for jihad on the streets of London is consistent with the ideology of Hamas.
‘It doesn’t just put the Jewish community at risk but is a threat to all communities. Londoners have previously been the victims of this ideology in terror attacks.’
Last night, Sadiq Khan tweeted: ‘Ahead of the weekend let me be clear: antisemitism and other hate crime will not be tolerated.
‘The Met will do everything in its power to tackle hate. I remain in close contact with the Commissioner, and continue to support his calls for the Govt to review hate laws & guidance.’
Commander Kyle Morgan said: ‘We’ve been clear over the last week that wherever possible we will police up to the line of the law.
‘Our most experienced and knowledgeable officers are working on the policing of these events, making sure we are utilising all legislation to its fullest extent.
‘I would encourage anyone who sees any crimes happening in the moment to report it to the nearest police officer.
‘Any footage or images of potential crimes should be reported to us – we have specialist teams whose role is to scour thousands of pieces of content identifying crime.’
Today’s march is aimed at demanding a ceasefire to stop the war which escalated even further last night.
Yesterday, the Met shared new photos of three women who wore hoodies with paragliders on them during last weekend’s marches in London
The pictures are understood to be a reference to motorised gliders used by Hamas during a deadly surprise attack on Israel three weeks ago
A protestor holding a placard reading ‘I fully support Hamas’ is also among suspects being sought by police
Hamas is proscribed in the UK as a terrorist organisation, meaning it is illegal to support it
Israel carried out aerial bombardments of northern Gaza overnight Friday into Saturday, illuminating the sky with explosions and fire
Israel says it has killed the architect of Hamas’ aerial incursion into the country three weeks ago – as tanks and troops rolled into Gaza after a night of carnage in which Tel Aviv destroyed 150 underground bases.
Asem Abu Rakaba was killed in one of the attacks carried out on alleged targets linked to the terror group, according to a statement issued by the Israeli military.
Abu Rakaba commanded the Hamas militants who infiltrated Israel on paragliders on October 7, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said; terrorists flew over the border into Israel to carry out the attacks that killed some 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says more than 7,300 people have been killed in Israel’s raids since, including 3,000 children.