Thousands rally in UK cities demanding ‘Freedom for Palestine,’ denouncing Israel

Masses in London demand end to ‘appalling atrocities’ in the Gaza Strip as Israel battles Hamas after terror group massacred 1,000 Israeli civilians

People walk down Regent Street as they take part in a 'March For Palestine' in London on October 14, 2023. (Justin Tallis/AFP)
People walk down Regent Street as they take part in a 'March For Palestine' in London on October 14, 2023. (Justin Tallis/AFP)

Thousands of people rallied Saturday in London and other UK cities for pro-Palestinian protests, demanding “Freedom for Palestine” and denouncing Israel, amid police warnings that anyone showing support for the terror group Hamas could face arrest.

Attendees, who marched through the heart of the British capital as well as Manchester in northern England, Edinburgh in Scotland and other cities, were shadowed by a heavy police presence.

In London, demonstrators massed near BBC News’ headquarters before an afternoon rally near Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street office and residence.

Some held Palestinian flags and placards — bearing slogans including “Freedom for Palestine,” “End the massacre” and “Sanctions for Israel” — as they made their way towards the endpoint for planned speeches. Chants of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you” could be heard.

“I think all just people around the world, not just in Britain, must stand up and call for this madness [to end],” Ismail Patel, chairman of the Friends of Al-Aqsa campaign, told AFP at the demonstration in the capital.

“Otherwise, in the next few days, [we] might see a catastrophe unfolding.”

Edinburgh marchers chanted a demand for Israel’s destruction, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” as they walked along the city’s Royal Mile.

The rallies, featuring calls for Israel to “stop bombing Gaza,” come as Israel intensifies its war to destroy Hamas’s capabilities, relentlessly pounding the Gaza Strip and deploying tens of thousands of soldiers nearby ahead of an expected ground offensive in the enclave.

That follows last Saturday’s brutal attack by Hamas, which saw hundreds of its gunmen burst across the Israeli border and kill more than 1,300 people, most of them civilians, on the streets, in their homes and at a rave party, many of them brutally massacred, in the worst attack on Jews in a day since the Holocaust. Hamas also abducted some 150-200 hostages.

Ahead of the London protest, the city’s Metropolitan Police Service said it would deploy more than 1,000 officers, as the events thousands of miles away reverberate in Britain and elsewhere.

People gather with placards and a large Palestinian flag to take part in a ‘March For Palestine’ in London on October 14, 2023 (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Police and the government have noted a spike in UK antisemitic crime and incidents since the Hamas assault, while officers in Sussex, southeast England, arrested a 22-year-old woman Friday suspected of having made a speech backing Hamas. A banned terrorist organization in Britain, its members — or those found guilty of inviting support for it — can be jailed for up to 14 years under UK law.

The Met said this week that general expressions of support for Palestinians, including flying the Palestinian flag, were not criminal offenses but reiterated that supporting Hamas is a crime.

Ferouza Namaz, 34, a student from Uzbekistan, joined the London protest, arguing that civilians in Gaza are “absolutely innocent.”

“Just being Palestinian does not give the right to kill them. These appalling atrocities have been taking place for so many years,” he added.

A police officer shouts at a protester in Trafalgar Square after a ‘March For Palestine’ in London on October 14, 2023 (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Israel insists it does not deliberately target civilians in the Gaza Strip or other Palestinian territories, while saying Hamas operates from within civilian areas, using the population as human shields.

Jeremy Corbyn, ex-leader of the main opposition Labour party — who was accused of allowing anti-Semitism to flourish during his four-year party tenure — addressed the London rally.

“If you believe in international law, if you believe in human rights, then you must condemn what is happening now in Gaza by the Israeli army,” the now-independent lawmaker said.

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