Friday, 21 Jun 2024

‘I went to the pro-Palestine march and discovered where the real hate march was’

More than 300,000 people marched through central London today to show their support for Palestine.

Ahead of the protest, there had been a lot of questions about whether it should go ahead with political figures calling for it to be banned over fears it would interfere with Armistice Day ceremonies.

As promised, the organisers avoided the Cenotaph and instead headed southwest past Victoria and onto the US Embassy near Vauxhall.

Before the march got underway I headed towards Whitehall to see if anyone would attempt to protest near the Cenotaph and disrupt the two-minute silence.

Ahead of the largest demonstration yet, Home Secretary Suella Braverman had called these protests “hate marches” and on Saturday morning I found one.

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It wasn’t to be found at Hyde Park Corner where the pro-Palestine protest was amassing, but further east by the Cenotaph.

Earlier this week politicians and commentators had feared that protesters might try to disrupt the two-minute silence by storming the famous landmark.

As it turned out their fears became reality, but protesters who attempted to storm the Cenotaph were not from Extinction Rebellion or the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, instead, they were aggressive far-right thugs there to counter-protest the peace march.

Footage posted online showed them clashing with police and trying to break through their lines. Later, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) led them into Chinatown where he fled the scene in a taxi as his followers were surrounded by police.

To the march itself and while there was a little disorganisation at the start, there was no violence from the protesters I saw. Parents walked with their children down empty London streets and people waved placards calling for peace.

What’s more, I saw marshals on the lookout for people holding offensive signs, this was a controlled and peaceful march.

Meanwhile, counter-protesters were stirring, trying to nip at the pro-Palestine march from the sides, forcing police to intervene and push back the hate from people marching for peace.

This violence continued through the evening as reports and photos flew in of these protestors fighting officers and attempting to cause trouble.

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After the dust, fireworks, and flares had settled down, Assistant Commissioner for the Met Police Matt Twist condemned the hooligans.

He said: “The extreme violence from the right-wing protestors towards the police today was extraordinary and deeply concerning. They arrived early, stating they were there to protect monuments, but some were already intoxicated, aggressive and clearly looking for confrontation.

“Abuse was directed at officers protecting the Cenotaph, including chants of “you’re not English any more”. This group were largely football hooligans from across the UK and spent most of the day attacking or threatening officers who were seeking to prevent them being able to confront the main march.”

“Many in these groups were stopped and searched and weapons including a knife, a baton and knuckleduster were found as well as class A drugs. Thanks to the considerable efforts of our officers, who put themselves in harm’s way, nobody was able to reach the Cenotaph, which was protected at all times.

“Nine officers were injured during the day, two requiring hospital treatment with a fractured elbow and a suspected dislocated hip. Those officers were injured on Whitehall as they prevented a violent crowd from getting to the Cenotaph while a remembrance service was taking place.”

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