Thousands gather for London anti-Israel rally; police arrest four for hate crimes, public disorder

Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists and supporters wave flags as they gather for a protest in Trafalgar Square in central London on March 30, 2024, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel/Hamas conflict. (BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)
Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists and supporters wave flags as they gather for a protest in Trafalgar Square in central London on March 30, 2024, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel/Hamas conflict. (BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP)

Thousands of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters rallied in London today, in the latest demonstration in the British capital demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and more aid for the war-ravaged territory.

The event, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, began at Russell Square in the city center before attendees marched to Trafalgar Square for a mid-afternoon rally.

A smaller number of demonstrators also turned out for a counter-protest in support of Israel, with lines of police separating the two gatherings.

London has seen numerous large-scale anti-Israel protests since Israel mounted its military response to Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7, as well as smaller pro-Israel counter-demonstrations.

The rallies for Palestinians have proved contentious, attracting criticism for fueling a hostile environment towards Jewish people. Some ruling Conservative lawmakers have branded them “hate marches.”

Police have made dozens of arrests over those months for antisemitic chanting and banners, promoting a proscribed organization, and assaulting emergency workers.

That included on Saturday, with officers making four arrests for hate crime, public disorder and terrorism offences.

A man was detained for the terror-related offence related to “inviting support for a proscribed organization,” London’s Metropolitan Police say.

Organizers have insisted throughout they are exercising their democratic rights and that law-breakers make up a tiny minority of the sometimes tens of thousands of people who have turned out.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this month called for officers to take tougher action against protesters at such events, saying they “had descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence”.

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