300,000 protestors descend on London for Armistice Day march - while British Jews 'stay home'

Police arrested 92 people from far-right groups they labelled 'counter-protesters' and detained around 150 people who broke away from the main march


An Armistice Day anti-Israel demonstration advertised as "pro-Palestine" but labelled a "hate march" by Home Secretary Suella Braverman drew an estimated 300,000 people to central London today, according to the Metropolitan Police.

People of all ages declaring themselves pro-Palestine - though who in many cases revealed themselves to be openly anti-Israel - took to the streets to demand an end to the Israeli military action against Hamas in Gaza, despite calls by government ministers to cancel the event out of respect for Armistice Day.

The banging of drums echoed down Park Lane where the protest kicked off at noon, and the streets soon filled with the gunpowder-smell of flares.

Signs reading “Stop bombing Gaza”, “Free Palestine”, and “Sanctions on Israel” were held aloft by children and adults alike, who chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Israel is a terror state".

Many signs depicted watermelons, with the red, green, black and white colours representing the Palestinian flag.

Some protestors appeared to be pushing for a peaceful outcome - one sign featured the Hebrew word "Shalom", meaning "Peace" on one side and the Arabic translation on the other.

Other signs branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a terrorist, and, to the horror of community members who encountered images online, others drew equivalence between Israel's fightback against Hamas in Gaza to the Holocaust. Some featured the Star of David contorted into the shape of a swastika.

The march continued for several hours, culminating at the US Embassy in Vauxhall.  

Meanwhile, the Met arrested 92 people they labelled "counter-protesters". These groups were largely, if not entirely, made up of far-right protestors.

A large stream of these counter-protestors - some of whom waved St George's flags and bellowed "England till I die" - clashed with police before the main march set off, with violence erupting near the Cenotaph.

The Met, which deployed 2,000 officers to police the demonstrations today, said this morning: "While the two minutes’ silence was marked respectfully and without incident on Whitehall, officers have faced aggression from counter protestors who are in the area in significant numbers.

"The counter protestors are not one cohesive group. There are different groups moving away from Whitehall towards other parts of central London. Officers are keeping track of them as they do.

"If their intention is to confront the main protest departing later today from Park Lane, we will use all the powers and tactics available to us to prevent that from happening."

Late in the evening the Met said it had detained a breakaway group of around 150 people from the anti-Israel demonstration. The group, in Belgravia, were launching fireworks and many were sporting face coverings, the Met said. Some of the fireworks struck officers in the face.

The force updated the number of arrests to 126, though it is not clear if the additional arrests made were of far-right or anti-Israel protesters.

Barrister and writer Jamie Susskind's summation of the events that unfolded reflected the experience of many British Jews today.

"[This is] not a great day for British Jewry...what with the streets of London split between far right skinheads and folks calling for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state," Susskind observed.

"I’m staying home."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the far-right demonstrators, whom he said were members of the EDL and other associated groups, and the "Hamas sympathisers" who attended the main march, but the home secretary did not comment.

Sunak said: "I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL 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.

"Remembrance weekend is a time for us to come together as a nation and remember those who fought and died for our freedoms. What we have seen today does 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...The fear and intimidation the Jewish community have experienced over the weekend is deplorable."

Sunak added that he expected "all criminality to be met with the full and swift force of the law".

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive