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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Pro-Palestinian march organizers say it will be one of UK’s biggest-ever protests
BEIRUT: More than half a million people are expected to take part in what the organizers of a pro-Palestine march believe will be England’s largest mass protest, in London on Saturday’s Armistice Day.
Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, one of the march’s organizers, says he expects people to be traveling from all over the UK to march from Park Lane toward the US Embassy in southwest London, The Guardian reported on Friday.
Jamal said: “We think it is going to be huge.”
A PSC statement said: “More than 500,000 people are expected to converge on London, making it one of the largest political marches in British history.”
PSC said it “reasserts its concerns at the disgraceful remarks by Home Secretary Suella Braverman,” as “she has sought to delegitimize the call for a cease-fire, which is supported by the vast majority of the British public, smear those marching for peace and stir up public unrest.”
Jamal said: “Contrary to the disgraceful rhetoric of Suella Braverman and other political leaders, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, will come to London to march for peace, for a cease-fire, and for the rights of the Palestinian people to be respected.
“They reject a narrative that seeks to dehumanize Palestinians and their legitimate struggle for freedom, they are appalled by the mass killing of Palestinians including 4,500 children, and they want an end to British complicity in supporting Israel’s decades-long violations of international law.”
He added: “They reject all forms of racism and believe that consistent antiracism means opposing in word and deed the imposition upon the Palestinian people of a system of apartheid. They march as well to affirm the right to protest, now under its most severe attack by a Home Secretary who has shown herself to be wholly unfit for office.”
The decision to avoid the center of London and Whitehall over the weekend was made by the organizers many weeks ago and agreed with the police, PSC said.
“Braverman was fully aware of this fact, as was Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, when they issued statements suggesting that the march was intended to disrupt preparations for Remembrance Sunday. As a result, they have caused, we believe intentionally, public concern and greenlit far-right activists who have declared their intention to come to London ‘to protect the Cenotaph’.”
This has created additional unnecessary challenges to the Police and the march organizers to ensure public safety in stewarding many hundreds of thousands of people throughout the march, PSC said.
“We reject the attempts by political leaders, opposed to the call for a cease-fire, to defame those marching as hateful, antisemitic and intent on causing disorder,” it added.
The Metropolitan Police Service said policing on Armistice Day would be “far greater and more complex than we’ve delivered before,” and that officers would draw on “an extensive set of powers to prevent any disruption whatsoever,” with tight controls put on the movements of protesters.
Speakers are set to include Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader; actors Juliet Stevenson and Maxine Peake; Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK; and others, who will deliver their speeches from a special stage.
There are some concerns that certain groups may cause disruption, and that some far-right elements may seek to exploit the occasion.
Police on Thursday were reported to have refused a request from the organizers for two end points of the march which would have alleviated pressure on stewards, officers maintaining that they remained confident the event would be peaceful.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said he was keeping a close watch for any fresh intelligence in relation to the march. Any protesters who diverge from the agreed route from Hyde Park could be liable to a fine of up to £2,500 ($3,000).
The Cenotaph area is to have a dedicated 24-hour police presence across the weekend, while protesters will not be allowed close to the US Embassy, nor to gather in the streets around the Israeli Embassy in South Kensington.
The Met said: “Anyone who does not disperse from key central London locations, including Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, will be liable to be arrested.”
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he has been assured by Rowley that the Met will be able to prevent “serious public disorder.”
In addition to the PSC, the pro-Palestine march is being organized by the Muslim Association of Britain, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Palestinian Forum in Britain, the Stop the War Coalition, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Chris Nineham, from the Stop the War Coalition, will be directing a team of 500 volunteers on Saturday.
He said: “This will be far and away the biggest of these series of demonstrations.
“I know it’s going to be a lot bigger. Just one coach agency in the north of England has booked 250 coaches for the demo. That’s just one agency.”
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