Armistice Day pro-Palestine march: mounting calls to 'sack Suella' as hundreds of thousands march in London
Organisers estimate that more than 500,000 people attended the march, making it potentially one of the biggest political marches in UK history
and live on Freeview channel 276
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the capital to demand Palestine's freedom, in what may have been one of the largest political marches in British history.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had issued a plea for “unity” amid tensions over the pro-Palestinian march, set to go ahead on Saturday (11 November) - the same day the UK marks the end of the First World War. There had been concerns about the risk of counter-protests, with areas like Whitehall and the Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance fenced off to prevent protesters getting in - while police were given additional powers to search people for weapons.
The Met Police say there were 126 arrests total, many of them counter protesters who tried to confront people taking place in the march. A number of pro-Palestine protesters who hid their faces and repeatedly set off fireworks - despite organisers asking them not to - were also detained, while nine officers were injured.
However, the march was largely peaceful, with organisers estimating around 750,000 people were in attendance at the biggest demonstration since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted on 7 October. Floods of protesters travelled from Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall, before speeches by both MPs and Palestinians were made on a stage set up near the end of the march.
Scotland Yard said it was a major policing operation, and it deployed nearly 2,000 officers across central London over the weekend, while hours before the demonstration was set to begin, Sky News reports police officers could be seen guarding the Cenotaph - although the march did not go near the monument.
On the eve of the mass protest, the Prime Minister urged those taking part to do so “respectfully and peacefully” and to respect Armistice Day commemorations. “This act of remembrance is fundamental to who we are as a country, and I want to reassure those wishing to pay their respects, attend services and travel that they can and should do so,” Sunak said in a statement.
There were also other pro-Palestine demonstrations across the UK on Saturday, while there have been reports far-right group the National Front is also planning a march to the Cenotaph on Sunday afternoon.
Follow along live below:
London braces for Armistice Day Pro-Palestine March
What is expected to happen at the march?
An estimated half a million protesters will officially gather at Hyde Park, about a mile from Whitehall, at noon. They will then march to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames, in what is expected to be one of the biggest political marches in British history.
There will then be speeches, with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, actors Maxine Peake and Juliet Stevenson, and Husam Zomlot - head of the Palestine mission to the UK - expected to speak.
Here is the route protesters are expected to take:
A 'very difficult weekend' for police
A major policing operation has been set up in the capital around the march, as well as other protest activities planned over the weekend.
The number of officers on duty in London will be double the usual amount, with 1,850 officers on Saturday and 1,375 on Sunday.
An exclusion zone will be put in place using metal barriers covering Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade, the Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance and other relevant areas, to prevent those on the march from entering the locations. The Cenotaph will also have a dedicated 24-hour police presence.
The Met says the march and all speeches must end at 5pm, and officers have been given additional powers to search anyone in the area for weapons, and requires people in the area to remove face coverings that could be concealing their identity.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor told PA that t will be a “very difficult weekend" for policing. “We have got a significant march taking place... We are aware there will be counter-protests, as well as a lot of people who would ordinarily come to London to mark their respect on Armistice Day, on Remembrance Sunday.
“Our job is to ensure that we police without fear or favour, that we balance the rights of everybody, be that protesters, counter-protesters, or people living or coming into London," he added. “And our job this weekend is to ensure that people are kept safe, and that is what my focus is on.”
Sunak pleads for 'unity'
On the eve of the mass protest, the Prime Minister urged those taking part to do so “respectfully and peacefully” and to respect Armistice Day commemorations.
“This act of remembrance is fundamental to who we are as a country and I want to reassure those wishing to pay their respects, attend services and travel that they can and should do so,” Sunak said in a statement. “It is because of those who fought for this country and for the freedom we cherish that those who wish to protest can do so, but they must do so respectfully and peacefully.
“Remembrance weekend is sacred for us all and should be a moment of unity, of our shared British values and of solemn reflection.”
Hundreds of people gathered at the Cenotaph to observe two minutes of silence to commemorate the UK’s war dead at 11am.
Police on duty at Cenotaph
Metropolitan Police officers on duty beside the Cenotaph on Whitehall, central London, ahead of marches planned for the centre of the city on Saturday - Armistice Day.
Pro-Palestinian protestors arrive at Hyde Park
A stream of pro-Palestinian protestors are arriving at Hyde Park near the designated starting point for the march.
Hundreds have already descended on the area, many are carrying Palestinian flags while others clutch placards emblazoned with slogans such as “free Palestine”, “hands of al Aqsa”, “end Israeli apartheid” and “end the siege” and “baby killer Biden stop arming Israel”.
People in high-vis jackets are giving out placards.
Abid Mahmood, 25, holding a Palestinian flag, travelled from Birmingham to London yesterday to attend the march.
He said: “Palestine needs us, they haven’t got anybody else they need us. No-ones backing them and it’s cruel what’s happening, to see people getting killed, babies getting killed — they need our support. We’re here for a good reason not to cause trouble, we have come to peacefully protest.”
Large crowd clashes with police near Cenotaph
Clashes broke out between police and groups attempting to reach the Cenotaph ahead of the two minutes silence at 11am.
The large crowd of people bearing St George’s flags was seen walking along Embankment and shouting “England till I die”.
A line of police attempted to stop them from reaching Whitehall but the group pushed through, with some shouting “let’s have them” as officers hit out with batons.
March "a sea of black, white, red and green flags"
NationalWorld reporter Amber Allott is on the scene of today's Armistice Day pro-Palestine march.
Hundreds of protesters flooded into Marble Arch from all directions, chanting "From the rivers to the sea, Palestine will be free," to the sound of drums while multiple helicopters circle overhead.
An hour before the march officially set off, thousands of people had already gathered, a sea of black, white, red and green flags.
"What's happening is appalling"
Protester David Leal said he had decided to come to the march "because what's happening is appalling and we want it to stop". Amid chants of 'ceasefire now', Mr Leal said the UK government's position of the killings in Gaza had been "sad, but not a surprise".
Tommy Robinson spotted walking from Whitehall ahead of march
English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson was seen walking from Whitehall in the direction of Hyde Park, where pro-Palestine groups began today’s pro-Palestine march, before he headed off in a taxi. The Metropolitan Police are said to have faced “aggression” from counter-protesters ahead of the Armistice Day service at the Cenotaph.