Police are searching for ‘hate crime‘ suspects after hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through central London on Armistice Day in what was the biggest pro-Palestinian rally in the UK since Hamas launched its attack on Israel last month.
The Met Police launched an appeal on social media in an attempt to identify multiple demonstrators who were pictured carrying anti-Semitic placards at yesterday’s pro-Palestinian march.
The force said it was also ‘actively seeking’ two men pictured wearing alleged Hamas-style headbands their balaclava and scarf-covered faces and has vowed to take ‘proactive action’ once they have been identified.
At least 300,000 protesters marched Park Lane near Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall as part of the demonstration calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Police made 126 arrests at the rally and nine officers were left injured.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the ugly scenes in London yesterday ‘utterly disrespects’ the spirit of remembrance and condemned ‘wholly unacceptable’ actions by both far-right groups and ‘Hamas sympathisers’ on the pro-Palestinian march. He also put pressure on police by saying ‘all criminality must be met with the full and swift force of the law’.
The Met has shared photos on X, formerly Twitter, of several people wanted for ‘hate crimes’ committed at the march.
Among those wanted by police is a woman who was seen carrying a placard depicting Suella Braverman and Mr Sunak as coconuts, which is a racist term used to imply that someone has betrayed their race.
One demonstrator was pictured carrying a sing that showed the Jewish Star of David wrapped around a Nazi swastika with the slogan: ‘No British politician should be a “friend of Israel”.’
Others on the march had effigies of dead babies to highlight their demands for a ceasefire.
A Palestinian flag was also wrapped around a First World War memorial near London’s Wellington Arch, with protesters later seen climbing the statue.
Officers detained and arrested scores of counter-protesters at the rally, which the Met said was attended by 300,000 people. Organisers allege the latest estimate was ‘more than 800,000’.
A breakaway group of around 150 pro-Palestinian protesters from the march were detained in Grosvenor Place yesterday.
‘The group were firing fireworks and many are wearing face coverings,’ the Met said., adding that officers used their Section 60 and 60AA powers to detain and search those involved.
Earlier in the day, a total of 82 people who police said were part of ‘large group’ of counter-protesters who had ‘tried to reach the main protest march’ were arrested in Tachbrook Street, Pimlico.
Reports suggested that some people were detained and prevented from leaving the nearby White Swan pub with a heavy police presence outside, including officers on horseback.
A further 10 arrests were made throughout the day for offences including possession of offensive weapons, affray and possession of drugs, police said.
Counter-protesters had earlier clashed with police near the Cenotaph, ahead of a service to mark Armistice Day.
Scuffles broke out as police attempted to stop a crowd of people carrying St George’s flags marching along Embankment towards Whitehall, where the Cenotaph is located, shortly after 10am.
The group, which had been chanting ‘England ’til I die’, pushed through the police barrier, with some shouting ‘let’s have them’ as officers hit out with batons.
Further clashes with police took place in Chinatown with counter-protesters chanting ‘you’re not English any more’ towards officers.
A group of about 100 people were later held near Westminster Bridge under police powers to prevent a disturbance.
An Armistice Day service took place at the Cenotaph on Whitehall at 11am, which passed off peacefully with a two-minute silence being observed.
The Met Police said in an X post yesterday: ‘While the two minutes’ silence was marked respectfully and without incident on Whitehall, officers have faced aggression from counter-protesters who are in the area in significant numbers.’
The force added: ‘Officers have prevented those not involved in getting on to Whitehall so it can take place without disruption, as we committed.
‘They have faced unacceptable violence, including people throwing missiles and a metal barrier.’
Tommy Robinson, founder and former leader of the far-right English Defence League, was seen among the crowds of counter-protesters.
Mr Sunak will meet Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley in the coming days to hold him ‘accountable’ for the handling of the disturbances.
The Prime Minister said in a statement: ‘I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL (English Defence League) and associated groups and Hamas sympathisers attending the National March for Palestine.
‘The despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully.’
He said their actions do ‘not defend the honour of our Armed Forces, but utterly disrespects them’.
‘That is true for EDL thugs attacking police officers and trespassing on the Cenotaph, and it is true for those singing antisemitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing on today’s protest.’
He said he would be meeting the Met chief, adding: ‘All criminality must be met with the full and swift force of the law. That is what I told the Met Police Commissioner on Wednesday, that is what they are accountable for and that is what I expect.’
Mr Sunak had vowed to hold the Scotland Yard boss ‘accountable’ if there was any trouble on Saturday, after Sir Mark resisted pressure from senior Tories to ban the pro-Palestinian march as it coincided with the day commemorating the end of the First World War.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist yesterday said that the ‘extreme violence’ from the right-wing protesters towards the police 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.’
Mr Twist added that officers remained deployed into the night to respond to outbreaks of violence and to protect sites ahead of Remembrance Sunday events.