The Met Police has, as of 8pm on Wednesday 31 January, refused to approve parts of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s (PSC’s) national march for Palestine on Saturday 3 February – throwing the entire event into chaos.
The Met Police: trying to disrupt the Palestine march
3 February’s march is due to start outside the BBC in Portland Place. However, the PSC said in a statement late on 31 January:
The Metropolitan police are threatening to put obstacles in the way of this Saturday’s ‘Stop the Genocide, Ceasefire Now’ demonstration.
For over 3 months people have been attending protests in London calling for a ceasefire to end Israel’s genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Those marching in unprecedented number have been vindicated by the decision of the ICJ to accept that there is a plausible case that Israel is committing genocide.
This Saturday, as with previous protests, and because of the anticipated numbers, we informed the police on Monday that we would finish with two stages, one in Trafalgar Square and one in Whitehall.
Despite the fact that this arrangement has worked well on several of our previous marches, the police have so far not given permission. No reasonable rationale was given.
Not having a second stage risks serious overcrowding in Trafalgar Square and most protestors not reaching the endpoint of the demonstration, leading to heavy congestion in Regents Street and Piccadilly.
If we are not allowed access to Whitehall, it would also mean that days after the British government defied the ruling of the International Court of Justice on Israeli genocide, people would not be able to protest outside Downing Street.
We have written to the police urging them to reconsider, to agree to our request for a second stage and to accept that we have the right to march to the seat of government.
‘Surreal and enraging’
As PSC director Ben Jamal tweeted, the cops have been increasingly hostile to the Palestine protests as the weeks have gone on:
He also noted that:
We met the Police today and had an increasingly surreal and enraging discussion where key points were: ‘Yes you have a right to protest but we are worried that you marching through Oxford Street will disrupt shoppers. We won’t agree a second stage because we haven’t had time to speak to businesses on Whitehall for their views and don’t have a dispersal plan’.
Never mind that we have used the same dispersal plan for two stages in Whitehall and Trafalgar, successfully over many weeks.
The police refused to meet again tomorrow (Thursday 1 February). The offer remains on the table.
All this comes against a backdrop of Israel’s continued genocide in Gaza.
Most recently, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Israel’s murderous bombardment of Gaza – leading to over 26,000 deaths, mass displacement, and a humanitarian disaster – amounts to a plausible risk of Israel committing genocide and ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide.
However, the death and destruction continues to be wreaked on the people of Gaza with 215 Palestinians killed in just 24 hours. Yet, the UK government has suspended vital funding to UNWRA, the main UN organisation supporting Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan – a move supported by the opposition frontbench.
Meanwhile, away from 3 February’s march, other protests are happening in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Further actions for Palestine
On Wednesday 7 February, Stop the War Coalition and CND – supported by NEU, PCS and UCU – are calling for a workplace day of action. This is to help bolster organising efforts within our workplace and show that workers stand with the people of Palestine. Every collective act, big or small, sends a message to those who are suffering in Gaza that we are with them and puts pressure on our government to call on the Israeli government to stop bombing Gaza. Click here to find out more.
Last weekend saw local actions in towns and cities across the UK targeting Barclays – a major investor in companies supplying arms to Israel – and helping maintain its apartheid policies. That’s why on Friday 9 February, hundreds of people will close their Barclays bank account in support of a free Palestine. Click here to join them and pledge to close your Barclays account. After filling in a short form, you’ll be sent instructions on how to do this.
The Peace and Justice Project said in a statement:
We are witnessing an annihilation of a people, a culture, and a history. We must not stop calling for a ceasefire, and for the only path to a just and lasting peace: an end to the occupation of Palestine.
It seems fairly obvious what the Met is trying to do. By not agreeing to a crucial part of the march, cops are hoping PSC will call the entire demo off. However, if they think that’s what will happen – clearly, they don’t understand the resilience of Palestine campaigners.
Featured image via the Canary