Rishi Sunak has condemned “wholly unacceptable” actions by both far-right groups and the minority of “Hamas sympathisers” on the pro-Palestinian march, while putting pressure on police by saying “all criminality must be met with the full and swift force of the law”.
The Prime Minister said the ugly scenes in central London on Armistice Day “utterly disrespects” the spirit of remembrance as police confirmed 126 arrests – of which the “vast majority” were counter-protestors – with nine officers injured.
Mr Sunak will meet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley in the coming days to hold him “accountable” for the handling of the disturbances.
Police detained and arrested scores of counter-protesters as hundreds of thousands of people took part in the biggest UK rally since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7.
Those counter-protestors ‘defending’ the Cenotaph were filmed singing “you’re not English any more” and “England ‘til I die”, before some shouts of “let’s have them” as they pushed through a police barrier.
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There was also some trouble in the anti-genocide march – although this behaviour belonged to the minority and didn’t reflect that of the hundreds of thousands in attendance.
A breakaway group of around 150 people from the march, who were firing fireworks and wearing face coverings, were later detained in Grosvenor Place, the Met said.
Mr Sunak 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”.
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“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.
Police said there were 300,000 people on the march but organisers said the latest estimate was “more than 800,000”.
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