Protesters at a pro-Palestine rally in Trafalgar Square have launched fireworks at police officers as clashes erupted late on Saturday following nationwide protests on a ‘day of action’ in which activists in 40 locations across the UK called for a ceasefire.
Videos shared on social media showed fireworks being launched at police officers who lined the stairs in front of the National Gallery to monitor the protests, believed to have been attended by more than 30,000 people.
It came after protesters waved a banner depicting a bulldozer breaking down an Israeli border fence, a protester waved a sign showing an Israel flag being put into a bin, and a man was arrested with a sign threatening to blow up the House of Lords.
The Metropolitan Police says it has arrested 11 people in connection with the protests today – more than were arrested last week in the latest consecutive weekend of protesting after Hamas invaded Israel last month.
It marked a further sullying of largely peaceful action that has often been marred by tasteless signs and chants appearing to endorse the actions of Hamas after it slaughtered 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a terror attack on October 7.
Police scuffle with pro-Palestinian protesters near Piccadilly Circus on Saturday during the latest ‘day of action’ since Hamas’ terror attack in Israel on October 7
Pro-Palestinian protesters have clashed with police throughout Saturday following action outside the BBC, at Oxford Circus and on Trafalgar Square
Fireworks have been hurled at the police as they stood on the steps of Trafalgar Square while monitoring pro-Palestine protests
A protester in Trafalgar Square held up a sign depicting a bulldozer ploughing through a chain-link fence, reminiscent of a photograph taken on October 7 when Hamas invaded Israel
Police have arrested a man who was holding a sign that allegedly carried a threat to blow up the House of Lords
Police in Glasgow had to separate pro-Palestine activists from a group who held up an Israeli flag in solidarity with the country
Protests in Manchester during the pro-Palestine ‘day of action’ saw activists occupy Manchester Piccadilly train station
A woman walks through Newcastle city centre in a sheet covered in red paint during a protest on Saturday
The Metropolitan Police has ordered activists who turned out in London to disperse after the largely peaceful protests turned ugly later in the day; an order has also been made banning the wearing of face coverings across Westminster until 2am.
In a statement, the Met Police said: ‘A Section 35 Dispersal Order has been authorised by Superintendent May-Robinson at 1843 hours in order to disperse a group on Trafalgar Square who have been firing fireworks into crowds & towards police officers.
‘The Dispersal Order will remain in place until 0100 hours 5/11/23.’
It later added: ‘T/Commander Findlay has authorised a Section 60AA at 1929 hours.
‘This gives officers the power to require someone to remove any item that is being used to conceal their identity. This applies in the London Borough of the City of Westminster until 0200 hours on 5/11/23.’
Protesters had earlier lit flares and waved flags as they called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, which has killed some 1,400 Israelis and over 9,000 Palestinians since October 7.
Tensions had flared between protesters and police throughout the day as protests also took place outside the BBC, while sit-in protests took place in Oxford Circus and at Charing Cross railway stations before being dispersed.
Activists then poured into Trafalgar Square in the afternoon for the mass action, which saw former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and comedian Alexei Sayle address the crowds from a stage set up in the square.
Thousands of protesters packed out Trafalgar Square in scenes that were largely peaceful – but marred by people who bore signs that appeared to express support for Hamas.
Others waved effigies representing the bodies of babies and children in a bid to highlight the 3,000-plus children alleged to have been killed in Israeli retaliatory strikes since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health authority.
One protesters waved a placard on Saturday that depicted a bulldozer ploughing through a chain link fence, with the controversial slogan: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.
The drawing appeared to be a reference to a photo of a bulldozer crashing through the Israel-Gaza border on October 7, when Hamas terrorists slaughtered Israeli civilians.
The Metropolitan Police shared an image of officers on the steps of Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery after announcing that a dispersal order was in effect
The dispersal order covers large parts of the London borough of Westminster
Police clash with protesters in London on Saturday during pro-Palestinian protests on the latest ‘day of action’
Police arrest a man who allegedly carried a sign that bore a threat to blow up the House of Lords on Saturday
A woman yells at a group of men holding an Israel flag on Glasgow’s Jamaica Street on Saturday
Police restrain a woman on Piccadilly Circus during protests in central London on Saturday
Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered at Charing Cross Station on Saturday – they later dispersed after the British Transport Police intervened
Royal British Legion fundraisers sit at their table selling poppies and other charitable goods surrounded by pro-Palestine protesters at Charing Cross
Activists climbed the fountains in Trafalgar Square to wave flags and shout slogans in support of the Palestinian people
Orthodox Jewish men, believed to be aligned with the Neturei Karta fringe movement, turned out at the pro-Palestine event in Trafalgar Square on Saturday
At least one protester was seen carrying a banner which read ‘Let’s keep the world clean’ with a picture of an Israeli flag being thrown into a bin.
A similar banner displayed at a protest in Warsaw was condemned by the Israeli ambassador to Poland as ‘blatant antisemitism’.
Some demonstrators climbed on top of the square’s famous fountains as the mostly peaceful group waved flags and banners and let off fireworks on Saturday afternoon.
Among those protesting in the square appeared to be members of Neturei Karta, a fringe group of Orthodox Jews that does not believe in the need for the state of Israel.
Just after 5pm, the Metropolitan Police said 11 people had been arrested.
Images showed one man being restrained by police who could be seen holding a sign that read: ‘I am going to blow up the House of Lords’.
Officers also arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence after footage was shared on social media of a speaker at a pro-Palestine march of a man who allegedly suggested the October 7 attacks were the ‘biggest blow to Zionism that we’ve seen in our lifetimes’.
Protesters also gathered for a sit-in at Charing Cross station, which is near to Trafalgar Square in central London, on Saturday evening.
The British Transport Police (BTP) said it dispersed protesters under the Public Order Act 2023, without making any arrests.
It also confirmed on Saturday that it is making inquiries into chanting on the Tube network by demonstrators in the capital.
In one video highlighted to the Metropolitan Police on X, formerly known as Twitter, what appear to be pro-Palestinian supporters can be heard chanting: ‘Smash the Zionist settler state.’
Others during the protests chanted ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.
In Belfast on Saturday afternoon, pro-Palestinian activists marched from Queen’s University to the US consulate building in the south of the city.
Security was tight around the Cenotaph on London’s Whitehall on Saturday – amid fears that it could be vandalised during further pro-Palestine action on Armistice Day next week
Protests also took place elsewhere in London – outside the BBC at the top of Regent Street as well as at Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, where sit-ins were staged
A pro-Palestine rally took place in Newcastle on Saturday afternoon, attended by hundreds of people
Hundreds of people also turned out for action in Manchester, which saw activists descend on the city’s Piccadilly railway station
In Belfast, protesters left teddy bears outside the US Consulate. The US House of Representatives passed a Republican plan to provide $14.3bn in aid to Israel on Thursday
People protest outside the Home Office on Saturday ahead of the Trafalgar Square rally. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been criticised for claiming that pro-Palestine protests are ‘hate marches’
The rally organised near the consulate heard speeches and chants condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza and the United States’s support for the Israeli stance.
A protest in Glasgow saw the BBC headquarters in the Scottish city targeted by demonstrators, with activists holding up mock body bags in outcry at the 3,000 Palestinian children killed in the past three weeks.
Police also had to separate pro-Palestine activists from a small group who held up an Israeli flag in solidarity with the country.
In Newcastle, several women were pictured holding bloody effigies of dead babies while one dressed in a white shroud covered in fake blood.
Bloodied children’s dolls were held aloft as hundreds of Palestine supporters marched through the city centre to protest against the ongoing war.
Flags and placards reading ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and ‘End the Genocide’ were waved in the air by members of the Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign (NPSC) and Newcastle Stop the War, who organised the event.
The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has previously branded the ‘from the river to the sea’ slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is ‘widely understood’ to call for the destruction of Israel – a claim pro-Palestinian protesters have contested.
The Home Secretary has also previously caused controversy by describing the demonstrators taking to the streets in support of a ceasefire in Gaza as being involved in ‘hate marches’.
Some pro-Palestine marches have been sullied by activists who have allegedly expressed support for Hamas, a proscribed terror group in the UK.
The Met Police has charged two women with terror offences after they allegedly wore images of paragliders to protests last month – in apparent reference to Hamas fighters crossing Israel’s border by air to indiscriminately kill civilians during the October 7 attacks.
A group of campaigners also gathered outside the Home Office in Westminster in opposition to Ms Braverman’s comments on refugees and tents pitched by homeless people in public spaces.
The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have expressed concern about the prospect of further pro-Palestine protests next Saturday, November 11, during Armistice Day.
Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has promised to take a ‘robust approach’ and to use ‘all the powers available’ to ensure commemorative events are ‘not undermined’.
But demonstration organisers in London have pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph war memorial – the focus of national remembrance events – is located.