Holocaust Memorial covered to protect from potential vandalism

Large anti-Israel march held in London as police scrutinized for handling of protests

Antisemitic slogans feature on signs at pro-Palestinian rally, including in support of top cop who defended officer who made ‘openly Jewish’ remark; pro-Israel counterprotest held

Pro-Palestinian supporters hold placards and wave Palestinian flags during a demonstration against Israel outside Westminster Palace in central London, on April 27, 2024. (Benjamin Cremel/AFP)
Pro-Palestinian supporters hold placards and wave Palestinian flags during a demonstration against Israel outside Westminster Palace in central London, on April 27, 2024. (Benjamin Cremel/AFP)

Large crowds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched in London on Saturday to protest against Israel, as they have been doing on many weekends since the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught on Israel that sparked the ongoing war in Gaza.

The Metropolitan Police arrested two protesters, one of whom was holding a poster with a swastika.

The other was suspected of making racist remarks toward a group of pro-Israel demonstrators who held a counterprotest under the slogan “Enough is Enough” to criticize police’s handling of the marches. The force has faced growing criticism in the past week after an officer told the head of the Campaign Against Antisemitism he could not walk through a pro-Palestinian protest because he looked “openly Jewish.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism had also planned to hold a walk at the same time as Saturday’s march but canceled it amid safety concerns.

According to The Telegraph, Saturday’s protest against Israel included several posters with antisemitic slogans claiming the Israeli military harvests Palestinian organs and that Zionists control the media. Another poster thanked London Police Commissioner Mark Rowley, who has defended the officer who made the “openly Jewish” remark.

“Thank you Rowley for standing up to scum politicians being blackmailed by Jeffrey Epstein Mossad Pedo Ring! Protect Mark Rowley,” the poster reportedly read.

Among those who attended the march were far-left MP Jeremy Corbyn, whose tenure as head of the Labour Party was marked by accusations of antisemitism against him and his supporters, and Northern Ireland First Minister Michelle O’Neill, whose Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party has long been critical of Israel.

A pro-Israel counter-protester holds a placard as pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold their weekly march against Israel in central London, on April 27, 2024. (Benjamin Cremel/AFP)

As the march was held, images showed a blue tarp covering the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial, which Lord Mann — the government’s adviser on antisemitism — said he advised police and the parks authority to put up to protect the site.

“We could take the risk that it would get defaced with the likes of placards and cause additional offense to the Jewish and other communities,” he was quoted as saying by The Telegraph. ““It would have been nice if the organizers [of the rally] stopped to pay their own respects at the memorial.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Parks said: “The Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial is routinely covered with tarpaulin during various events as a precautionary measure. We are working closely with the police to ensure the safety of park visitors.”

The Metropolitan Police insisted they had no role in the decision to put up the tarp, after a photo of the covered memorial with a police car nearby was featured on the front page of The Daily Mail tabloid under the headline “police are so cowed by the antisemitic mob, they even cover up the Holocaust.”

“This is an inaccurate headline that will only fuel community concerns,” the police said. “It is a precaution Royal Parks have taken for a number of different events.

Ahead of Saturday’s march, the police said the cost of policing the anti-Israel protests had reached approximately £38.5 million (approximately $48 million).

The London police force has struggled to manage tensions sparked by the Israel-Hamas war, with Jewish residents saying they feel threatened by the repeated pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel marches through the streets of the UK capital.

In addition, the police force said 450 arrests have been made since the marches began, with 193 of them detained for antisemitic offenses.

The majority of those offenses involved placards, chanting or expressions of hate speech, police said.

Met Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist told British media that the force aims to police the events “without fear or favor,” and noted that they have “been a particular cause of fear and uncertainty in Jewish communities.”

However, the senior officer said the protests had not reached the threshold where they would be determined to carry a risk of “serious public disorder.”

Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (C) attends a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstration outside Westminster Palace, in central London, on April 27, 2024. (Benjamin Cremel/AFP)

Though the pro-Palestinian marches have been largely peaceful, a British counterterrorism official said last month the protests have made the streets of London “a no-go zone for Jews every weekend.”

Demonstrations have also featured people glorifying Hamas, and antisemitic incidents and chants.

British Jews say they have been subject to verbal abuse by some pro-Palestinian supporters since October 7, and there have been recorded incidents of physical violence as well.

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