London's pro-Palestine demonstration really was a 'love march' - despite what politicians seem to think
There was plenty of kindness and compassion on display at London's National March for Palestine, Amber Allott writes
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Saturday could go down in UK history as one of its biggest political marches ever, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand Palestine's freedom - and an end to the needless slaughter of thousands of civilians.
It was an uplifting demonstration, with fiery passion and gentle compassion on display in equal measures. So imagine my surprise on Sunday morning to see all of the headlines leading on stories of arrests, on the Met Police hunting protesters supporting Hamas or carrying antisemitic signs, or protesters heckling Tory MPs at the train station.
PA reports SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn called out those protesters, saying: "Those acting in this fashion damage their cause and, along with those displaying abhorrent antisemitism amongst the rally today, must be condemned.”
The Met say they are searching for a few people who were carrying antisemitic signs, but that's certainly not what I saw. I saw at least a dozen participants carrying signs that said 'Jews for Palestine', declaring that although they were Jewish, they condemned Israel and its actions. As the march crossed Vauxhall Bridge, passing a group of Jewish protesters with a banner to much the same effect, it elicited cheers of support from the crowd.
Police also arrested a few dozen counter-protesters to “prevent a breach of the peace”. There has also been reporting on protesters attempting to reach the Cenotaph war memorial monument, although these are understood to be unrelated to the Palestine demonstration entirely. But I didn't see so much as a single scuffle the whole time I was there, despite the throngs in attendance. The very worst thing I saw was a protester setting off one measly firework after organisers had asked them not to.
Sure, there was fury and passion in the chanting, in the speeches. People were angry about what is happening in Palestine, and rightfully so. There was also grief. Organisers named 50 Palestinian children killed in Gaza, after which there were two minutes of silence, where I saw a man stood beside me silently weeping.
Overwhelmingly what I saw from the the thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life who took to the streets was gentleness and empathy. People were careful of the tiny children with their parents, even of dogs whose owners had brought them along to the march. Protesters made way as well as they could for startled tourists who had wandered into its path, for people feeling unwell or who wanted to leave, and responded to a handful of hecklers with upbeat, positive messages - ignoring for the most part their attempts to drum up conflict.
Some politicians - most notably Home Secretary Suella Braverman - had put pressure on police not to let the pro-Palestinian march go ahead on Armistice Day, even going so far as to decry it as a "hate march". But from where I stood, and as countless placards said, the demonstration was overwhelmingly a "love march".
As Labour MP Richard Burgon said as he addressed the crowd, the government needed to "stop stoking division", especially for the sake of political point scoring, and acknowledge why a potentially record-breaking number of people chose to take to the streets - that unless it takes real, tangible action to fight for a ceasefire now, there is more blood on its hands.