Armistice Day protest: Oliver Dowden has ‘grave concerns’ over pro Palestine march on Armistice weekend that ‘could be violent’
Oliver Dowden urged police to “think carefully” about the “safety” of a pro Palestine protest that is set to take place on Armistice Day next weekend
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden has said he has "grave concerns" about the pro-Palestine demonstration that is due to be held on Armistice Day. Speaking on Sky News this morning (Sunday 5 November) Dowden said the police need to “think very carefully about the safety of that demonstration” and “where it could spill over into violent protest”.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators calling for an immediate ceasefire on Israel’s attacks on Gaza are planning to take to the streets of London on Armistice Day on Saturday 11 November. There are fears the march could disrupt the two-minute silence commemorating the war dead, and the daytime and evening Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
The Met Police said officers will be deployed across the capital that weekend as part of a “significant policing and security operation”. It said protest groups have not indicated plans to march on Remembrance Sunday on 12 November but a significant demonstration is expected on Saturday. Organisers of the demo have pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph war memorial – the focus of national remembrance events – is located.
Speaking to Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme, Dowden said: "I think that at a time that is meant to be a solemn remembrance of the sacrifice of previous generations and upholding our British values, I think the police need to think very carefully about the safety of that demonstration, namely whether it could spill over into violent protest and the signal it sends particularly to the Jewish community. Now, I understand that the Met Commissioner continues to keep it under review and I think that is appropriate."
Asked whether he was sending a signal to the police that the march currently planned for 11 November should be banned, Mr Dowden said: "The police are operationally independent. But I do have very grave concerns about that march, both in terms of how it sits with acts of solemn remembrance and the kind of intimidation that is being sent out by the chants and everything else that goes on at those marches.
"I think it is right that it is the law of the land that the police are operationally independent. But I think it is important that they consider those factors, yes."
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has said holding a pro-Palestine protest on Armistice Day would be “provocative and disrespectful” and there is a “clear and present risk that the Cenotaph and other war memorials could be desecrated”. Organisers of the protestors said previous marches had attracted 100,000 people and that claims they were disrespectful were “dangerous and disingenuous”. They insisted they had no plans to disrupt the two-minute silence at 11am on Remembrance Sunday and that their route would avoid the Cenotaph altogether.