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Thousands of demonstrators supporting Palestine have paraded through the heart of London, calling for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
On Saturday afternoon, an estimated 100,000 demonstrators supporting Palestine marched through the closed streets of Westminster. They held banners and set off fireworks and flares, creating a mostly peaceful atmosphere.
During a confrontation near Downing Street, police and protesters engaged in physical altercations involving punches and kicks. The demonstrators were instructed to disperse, while a man was apprehended and removed from the scene as onlookers chanted for his release.
On Saturday evening, the Metropolitan Police announced that nine individuals were taken into custody during the rally. Seven of them are accused of committing public order offenses, some of which are considered hate crimes. The remaining two are believed to have assaulted police officers.
A man was taken into custody on Whitehall following an attack on an officer, who sustained a head injury and was taken to the hospital. Another man was apprehended on Waterloo Road for allegedly committing a racially motivated public disturbance and making death threats.
On Saturday, there were also counter-protests occurring where several individuals holding Union flags gathered near the Cenotaph on Whitehall. This resulted in pro-Palestinian marchers chanting “shame on you”.
It was unclear at the time if the detained individuals were participating in the protest or a counter-protest.
The police have made a request to identify two women who may be involved in a suspected hate crime that occurred in Trafalgar Square.
Over 1,000 officers from the Metropolitan Police were present in London for the rally, where protesters called for an immediate cessation of bombing in Gaza. This bombing has resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians over the course of three weeks.
Many people gathered in the areas of Embankment, Whitehall, the Strand, Westminster, and Waterloo Bridge. The Public Order Act has placed restrictions on the event.
They stated that demonstrators must adhere to a designated path and should not congregate in a particular zone near the Israeli embassy in Kensington, located in west London.
During the march, a woman was knocked down by a police horse who was spooked by fireworks. However, once she was helped up, she seemed to be unharmed.
Certain demonstrators shouted “Palestine will be liberated, from the river to the sea,” despite the debate surrounding the interpretation of the phrase. Meanwhile, a sound system encouraged people to chant “Cease arming Israel. End the bombing of Gaza” and “We all stand in solidarity with Palestine.”
Over 200 protestors chanted “stop fighting now” as they staged a sit-in at Waterloo station, similar to the one that occurred at Grand Central station in New York on Friday evening.
The Metropolitan Police issued a warning before the protest, stating that hate crime will not be tolerated in London.
Police will address any criminal activity that they witness and take immediate action, but there may be things that go unnoticed at the time.
“We will also examine surveillance footage and visual media provided by the public in order to identify any potential offenses.”
They stated that if protestors were to use the term “jihad”, officers would step in.
During a pre-march briefing, Kyle Gordon, the head of the Met’s command team, stated that officers will intervene and report back to the team if anyone calls for jihad against Israel.
Until midnight, police were granted stop and search powers in the London boroughs of the City of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea under the authority of Section 60 and Section 60AA.
Protests took place in various regions of the UK, advocating for a ceasefire. These included gatherings in Manchester and Glasgow. In Belfast, approximately 3,000 people joined a rally that marched along Royal Avenue to City Hall. Additionally, a demonstration is scheduled to occur in Bristol on Sunday.
In addition to Britain, protests were held in other locations, including a sizable group of pro-Palestinian protesters who chanted slogans outside of the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Speaking to a large gathering of supporters in Istanbul, President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey denounced Israel as an occupying force, while demonstrations in Baghdad and the West Bank urged for a boycott of Israeli products.
In addition, individuals gathered in the public areas of Copenhagen, Rome and Stockholm, with a significant protest taking place in Wellington, New Zealand.
The worldwide protests follow Israel’s increased bombing of the Gaza Strip and announcement of moving to the next phase of the conflict. The military has advised citizens in the northern area to evacuate immediately.
Israel disrupted communication and caused a nearly complete lack of information, effectively isolating the 2.3 million individuals in Gaza from the rest of the world.
According to Gaza officials, the death toll in the region has reached 7,650 as a result of Israel’s bombing in retaliation for a Hamas attack on October 7th. Israel claims that 1,400 people were killed in the Hamas attack.
The stance of the UK government, supported by Sir Keir Starmer of the Labour party, has been to advocate for “humanitarian pauses” in order to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza and to provide a means of escape for individuals, including 200 British nationals, who are currently trapped in the area.
There is mounting pressure for Mr. Starmer to alter his course, following endorsements from prominent Labour figures such as London mayor Sadiq Khan, advocating for a ceasefire.