Some 100 pro-Palestinian rallies were set to be held across the United Kingdom on Saturday instead of the large weekly protest in London, as organizers said they sought to show that “ordinary people” were in favor of a ceasefire.
Events were to be held at some ten sites across London, as well as in cities across Britain, The Guardian reported.
“This Saturday, ordinary people across the UK will come out again to show the vast majority of them support a ceasefire,” Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), one of the groups behind the rallies, told the newspaper.
Israel, backed by the US, has maintained the stance that Hamas would use a ceasefire to regroup, and that one cannot be implemented without the release of the hostages held by terrorists in Gaza.
A spokesperson for Stop the War Coalition said a national rally would be held next week, with the participation of trades unions.
Commander Karen Findlay, who was to lead the policing operation in London, said Friday that officers “will intervene swiftly where they see crimes taking place.”
“We will target our deployments in those areas with significant Jewish or Muslim communities who we know continue to experience increased uncertainty and fear in light of events in the Middle East and their impact here in London,” Metropolitan Police said.
The London force also said they would ensure that planned events on Sunday, including the ceremony organized by the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, “can take place in safety and security.”
On Friday, thousands of students and children walked out of schools in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol as part of a “School Strike for Palestine.”
Education Minister Gillian Keegan said she was “deeply concerned” by the initiative for children to leave school, particularly for an event that could feature antisemitism.
“I’m deeply concerned that some children are attending political protests during the school day,” the minister wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Even more so if they’re taking part in, or being exposed to, antisemitic chants.”
The Saturday London rallies in recent weeks have come under scrutiny for antisemitic chants and posters by some participants.
An estimated 300,000 people marched through the British capital last week, as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists made their latest mass call for a ceasefire, with police out in force to prevent clashes with counter-protesters.
An Israel Channel 12 reporter at the demonstration reported chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan used by supporters of Hamas and others to demand Israel’s destruction. His report also included footage of anti-Jewish chants and antisemitic banners.
Some demonstrators wore Hamas headbands.
There have also been a number of incidents of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel chants by crowds using public transportation as they travel to and from the demonstrations.
Since the start of the war, UK Jewish organizations have reported a massive spike in antisemitic incidents and members of the community have raised concerns over the rising threat.
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in the demonstrations every Saturday since the war began organized by left-wing groups and Muslim organizations.
There also have been rallies supporting Israel and demanding Hamas free the hostages it seized in its October 7 onslaught, although those have mainly been attended by members of the Jewish community.
Last week’s march generated concern because it coincided with Armistice Day, commemorating the end of fighting in World War I in 1918 — and political criticisms about the policing operation — a growing storm that led to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sacking his interior minister.
On the other side of the aisle, Labour leader Keir Starmer was hit by a string of resignations from his frontbench in the House of Commons on Wednesday night, after facing a rebellion from his MPs over his refusal to back a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
The vote calling for the ceasefire was defeated by 293 votes to 168, but eight of Starmer’s frontbenchers resigned after supporting the amendment.
War began when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists launched a devastating assault on October 7, in which they rampaged through southern communities, killing over 1,200 people, mostly civilians butchered in their homes and at the music festival, and abducting some 240 people of all ages in total.
In response, Israel embarked on a massive air and ground campaign with the aim of toppling the terror group’s regime in Gaza, which it has ruled since taking over in a 2007 coup.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that 12,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, including at least 5,000 children. The figures cannot be independently verified and do not distinguish between civilians and terrorists, and also do not differentiate between those killed by Israeli airstrikes or by failed Palestinian rocket launches.
Agencies contributed to this report.