Hundreds of thousands of anti-Israel protesters march in London ‘day of action’

Three arrested for handing out posters praising Oct. 7 massacre; some chant in favor of Houthi attacks in Red Sea and against two states, call for ‘intifada’

Protesters hold up banners, flags and placards as they walk along the Embankment by the River Thames during an anti-Israel demonstration, in London, January 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Protesters hold up banners, flags and placards as they walk along the Embankment by the River Thames during an anti-Israel demonstration, in London, January 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

More than 200,000 pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters marched in central London on Saturday as part of a “global day of action” to oppose Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Around 1,700 police were on duty for the march. Major demonstrations have taken place in London on most Saturdays since the war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre, when thousands of terrorists rampaged through southern Israeli communities, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians slaughtered amid brutal atrocities, and kidnapping over 240 to Gaza.

The Metropolitan Police of London said they had arrested three people for handing out leaflets praising the October 7 onslaught during the rally.

The flyer voiced “unconditional and wholehearted support and solidarity for the Palestinian struggle, which is once more breaking out into armed resistance. As it was bound to do.”

“We communists join together with all progressive humanity in congratulating the Palestinian people and their chosen leadership on the audacious, daring and effective military action they are now taking against the last settler-colonial apartheid state, that monstrous proxy for Anglo-American imperialism, usurper of the Palestinian lands, rights and nationhood, Zionist Israel,” it added.

Police warned protesters ahead of the rally that they faced arrest if they “intentionally push the limit” with placards and chants.

They also said that protesters must stick to the route specified and that the event must finish by 5 p.m. (1700 GMT). Among the conditions placed for the march was a directive that no participant in the protest will venture near the Israeli Embassy.

Police said they dispersed around 80-100 people who tried to form a smaller march at the end of the main protest.

Saturday’s march held particular significance given the UK’s airstrikes in Yemen this week against Houthi bases, after attacks by the Iran-backed rebel on ships in the Red Sea, in solidarity with Gaza.

Some protesters chanted “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud, turn another ship around,” expressing support for the rebel group, whose slogan reads “God Is the Greatest, Death to America, Death to Israel, A Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam.”

Others called for an “intifada,” or uprising, and expressed chants that implied the destruction of Israel, such as, “We don’t want two states, Palestine ’48.”

The plight of children in the Strip after nearly 100 days of war was the focus of the latest London march, symbolized by the appearance of Little Amal, a 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) puppet originally meant to highlight the suffering of Syrian refugees.

The puppet had become a human rights emblem during an 8,000-kilometer (4,970-mile) journey from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester in July 2021.

“We want to show the people of Palestine we are with them and to speak up against our government as well,” said 27-year-old health service worker Maleeha Ahmed, who was at the main rally with her family.

“They are playing a very, very big role in allowing Israel to continue what they are doing and it’s just not acceptable,” she said.

Another marcher, Dipesh Kothar, 37, said it was “very frustrating to sit and watch the world do nothing.”

“That’s why we come out to show support for the Palestinian people and show our unhappiness with the governments around the world,” he said.

The day of action, involving 30 countries, was called by the UK organizing coalition comprising the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of Al Aqsa, and the Muslim Association of Britain.

“Millions of people will take to the streets across the world this Saturday, to demand a permanent ceasefire and a lasting political settlement for all Palestinians,” said Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

“The UK government must end its support for Israel’s brutal war in Gaza, and join the wider international community in condemning its war crimes,” she said.

Previous protests have seen anti-Israel chants and a number of arrests. However many in the British Jewish community believe that policing has not gone far enough.

A pro-Israel rally is set to take place in London on Sunday.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel activists and supporters wave flags and carry placards during a National March for Palestine in central London on January 13, 2024. (HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)

The UK government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption told The Times that demonstrators shouting “jihad” should be arrested.

“Clearly, shouting ‘jihad’ in the street in the wake of the pogrom on October 7 is not using the interpretation of the word meaning inner struggle,” Lord Walney told the newspaper.

“Anyone of reasonable mind would know this,” he said.

The London march was one of several others being held in European cities including Paris, Rome, Milan, and Dublin where thousands also marched along the Irish capital’s main thoroughfare to protest Israel’s military operations in the Palestinian enclave.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags, held placards critical of the Irish, US and Israeli governments, and chanted, “Free, free Palestine.″

The Hamas-run health ministry says Israel’s campaign has killed over 23,000 people since. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 8,500 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Israeli says it makes efforts to avoid civilian casualties, but that these are unavoidable in a war against a terror group operating from within the civilian population, using innocents as human shields.

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