Pro-Palestinian groups under renewed pressure to call off Armistice Day march in London

The organisers of a pro-Palestinian Armistice Day protest in London were on Tuesday facing intensifying pressure to cancel the march as the Prime Minister rejected calls for Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza.

Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons that "a unilateral and unconditional ceasefire would simply allow Hamas to entrench its position and continue its attacks against Israel".

He added: "We will not stand for the hatred and anti-Semitism we have seen on our streets. It sickens me to think that British Jews are looking over their shoulder in this country. That children are going to school covering up their school badges for fear of attack.

"This government will do whatever it takes to keep the Jewish community safe. Just as we will do whatever it takes to keep every community safe, and we will fight hatred and extremism in all its forms and wherever it is found - today, tomorrow, and always."

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said he and the government supported a Met decision to ask the organisers of Saturday’s march to postpone it because of what Scotland Yard said was a growing “risk of violence and disorder linked to breakaway groups” at the event.

The request – which came as the Met said there had been more than 160 arrests, including for racially motivated crimes and alleged terror offences at previous London protests over Gaza – has so far been refused.

But Mr Chalk stepped up the pressure by warning that even those who intending to protest peacefully would be in danger of giving support to extremists at what was an “extremely important time in our calendar” because of the Armistice Day commemorations.

“The police … have to weigh up a number of competing considerations, the right to protest, but also concerns about public safety… [and] have been very clear that having weighed all that up their strong request is that these marches don’t take place and we support the police in that.

“We want the recommendation of the police to be followed. We think that it’s wise advice, we think it takes account of all the competing consideration and that it should be followed.

“There is no doubt there are elements on these marches that I’m afraid are espousing hate,” Mr Chalk said.

“The concern must be whether those people who have a perfectly legitimate intentions and concerns are directly or indirectly supporting those people who are espousing hate.

Mr Chalk, who was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, added that Home Secretary Suella Braverman was “absolutely correct when she says that there is hate on these marches” and warned that although other participants were “not consumed by any illegality, not going to be calling out jihad” their attendance risked encouraging extremists.

However, Downing Street and other ministers have declined to repeat Ms Braverman's specific and contentious phrasing of "hate marches" in her denunciation of the pro-Palestinian protesters.

“The central point is this, that those who do attend those marches will want to consider carefully whether they are intentionally, or more likely unintentionally, giving help or encouragement or supporting those people who are really espousing some toxic, hate-filled and really corrosive ideology,” Mr Chalk said.

“The Public Order Act of 1986 says that you cannot commit threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour which causes harassment, alarm or distress. It means that there are limits to freedom of speech.

“Of course people can protest, of course people should get their point across – what they can’t do is alarm and distress people and they certainly can’t do things which glorify terrorism.”

Policing minister Chris Philp told the Standard that ministers supported the police decision and wanted to avoid the risk of disorder on Remembrance weekend “insulting” the memory of those who have given their lives for this country.

“Ministers will be supportive of whatever action is needed to keep London’s streets and Remembrance services safe and unhindered,” Mr Philp said.

“We have real concerns that there could be serious disorder this weekend and the Met Police have acknowledged that. We don’t want anything to disrupt Remembrance services over the weekend - that would be deeply insulting to those who gave their lives to protect the rest of us.”

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, which is one of a number of groups that have organised protests since Hamas’ murderous attack on Israel prompted Israel’s retaliatory action in Gaza, has so far refused to call of Saturday’s planned march.

It is due to take a route from Hyde Park to Battersea Park, start later than the 11am Armistice Day commemoration at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, but happening close to a Royal British Legion afternoon event at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Met said it feared that “splinter groups” could cause “serious disorder” as it also revealed that more than 554 anti-semitic hate crimes have been reported to the force since the conflict in Israel and Gaza began a month ago, as well as 220 Islamophobic offences.