Barristers call for Met action on Palestine protests following 'deeply disturbing' incidents

The group has said the route, duration and number of participants at London rallies should be restricted


People take part in a 'March For Palestine', in London on October 21, 2023, to "demand an end to the war on Gaza". The UK has pledged its support for Israel following the bloody attacks by Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 people, and has announced that humanitarian aid to the Palestinians will be increased by a third -- an extra £10 million pounds ($12 million). Israel is relentlessly bombing the small, crowded territory of Gaza, where more than 3,400 people have been killed, most of them Palestinian civilians, according to the local authorities. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

A group of leading barristers has called on the Metropolitan Police to limit the route, duration and number of participants at Palestine protests.

Writing to force chief Sir Mark Rowley, the 15 KCs say: "There have been numerous deeply disturbing and apparently criminal incidents at these protests which were either not dealt with by your officers at all, or only after the fact following investigation and advocacy by members of the public."

These include the flying of an Islamist flag as a man called for Jews to be cursed, marchers displaying images of Hamas paragliders, and effigies of blood-soaked babies.

Earlier this month, the Met asked for help identifying 11 different people or groups of people involved in allegedly criminal action at recent protests, they note.

The letter, which was organised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, adds: "We understand that the MPS has to consider the imbalance between numbers of police and protestors and has had a policy of prioritising maintaining the peace at such events, and following up with any intelligence gained regarding offences after the fact.

"While this may have worked in the past, it is simply not appropriate in the current environment of rising tension, violence, extremism and hate crime.

"If the police are unable to effectively maintain order and security for the public at the protests in their current form, then some restrictions would need to be placed on any future protests to enable the police to operate effectively."

The Public Order Act of 1986 allows the police to impose conditions on a protest to prevent serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community.

The barristers say sections 12 and 14 of the legislation should be used to shield London's Jewish community from disruption.

"At least one synagogue has had to alter its services to finish earlier on Saturdays as a result of the planned protests, and we are aware of a number of people who have felt forced to leave their homes or avoid central London altogether," they write.

"There is also, of course, the overall impact on the community of having to live through these protests week after week."

The letter's signatories include Sir Michael Burton KC GBE, Jonathan Goldberg KC, Lord Pannick KC and Lord Grabiner KC.

Gideon Falter, CCA chief executive, said: “Every Saturday, central London is becoming a hostile, no-go zone for many Londoners, including British Jews. It is astounding how quickly this has become the new 'norm'.

"We are hearing from Jewish Londoners who have lived in the capital their entire lives that they are now questioning whether they are safe in Britain.

"With calls now for a ‘million man’ march on Remembrance Day weekend, we cannot accept this any longer, which is why 20,000 Londoners have now signed our petition calling for urgent action.

"As these legal experts remind us in the letter, the Metropolitan Police Service has powers under existing legislation to impose restrictions on these demonstrations and arrest offenders in greater numbers.

"Only this would send a message that this scale of criminality and intimidation has no place on our streets, and that law-abiding Londoners have a right to walk through their city without fear.

"That is the fundamental job of the police. The time for action came weeks ago, but it is not too late to finally uphold the law.”

The Metropolitan Police have been contacted for comment.

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