People rally in London to show solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war/Photo: Reuters
LONDON: More than 300,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through central London, with police arresting more than 120 people as they sought to stop far-right counterprotesters from ambushing the main rally.
Skirmishes broke out between police and groups gathered to protest the demonstration taking place on Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War I, when Britain and other nations commemorate their war dead.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the violence seen at the Cenotaph war memorial and also attacked “Hamas sympathizers” who joined the bigger rally, “singing antisemitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing on today’s protest.”
Tensions had been running high before Saturday’s march — the biggest in a series to show support for the Palestinians and call for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip — after interior minister Suella Braverman called them “hate marches” led by “mobs.”
London’s Metropolitan Police had refused ministerial requests to block the event, saying they did not have indications that there would be serious violence, straining relations with the government.
Police said in a statement late on Saturday that they had arrested 126 people so far, the majority of whom were right-wing protesters who formed part of a group several hundred strong that police said included football hooligans.
“The extreme violence from the right-wing protesters towards the police today was extraordinary and deeply concerning,” Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said, adding that a knife and brass knuckles were found during searches.