Sunak to clampdown on protests as pressure to sack Braverman grows

Rishi Sunak hosting a policing roundtable Credit: PA

The home secretary’s political future hangs in the balance after she was accused of stoking tensions that lead to violence at protests in London this weekend.

Speculation is rife at Westminster that Rishi Sunak could carry out a ministerial reshuffle as soon as this week which may see Suella Braverman taken out of her high profile government role.

Following the incidents at demonstrations on Armistice Day this weekend, which some have blamed on Mrs Braverman, the prime minister is reportedly planning to tighten laws to make it easier to ban marches and prosecute those glorifying terrorism, according to several newspapers.

He looks set to press Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s scenes in London, when he meets the police chief in the coming days.

He has said both far-right “thugs” and “those singing antisemitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing” must face “the full and swift force of the law”.

Mrs Braverman meanwhile doubled down on calls for pro-Palestinian protests to be stopped as she warned that London’s streets are “being polluted by hate, violence and antisemitism” and hit out at “sick” chants and placards at Saturday’s march.

Her remarks on Sunday made little mention of far-right counter-protesters she has been accused of emboldening by previously speaking of pro-Palestinian “mobs” and police bias for allowing the rally to go ahead.

Counter-protesters confront police in Parliament Square Credit: Jeff Moore/PA

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper blamed the unrest on Mrs Braverman’s “appalling and unprecedented attack” on the police’s impartiality and her “deliberate” stoking of tensions.

The Met Police said seven men have been charged with offences including assault on an emergency worker, criminal damage and possession of an offensive weapon.

Officers made 145 arrests – mostly counter-protesters – and nine officers were injured as they prevented a violent crowd reaching the Cenotaph on Saturday.

Police said that while the pro-Palestinian march did not see the sort of violence carried out by far-right groups, investigations into serious offences relating to antisemitism and hate crimes continue.

Mr Sunak will urge the Met Police to immediately arrest protesters seen using antisemitic slogans, The Times reported, after images of marchers wearing Hamas-style headbands and signs with the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

His crackdown could also see laws around fireworks, smoke bombs and flares tightened up and new laws to prevent protesters from climbing on statues, according to The Sun.

The threshold at which police can ban marches due to safety concerns would be lowered to take into account the “cumulative effect” of weeks of marches.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has been summoned for a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Credit: James Manning/PA

Sir Mark had resisted political pressure to block the Gaza march coinciding with Remembrance events, saying the scale of potential trouble fell short of the high threshold the law demands for a ban.

Mr Sunak has repeated his threat to hold the Met chief “accountable” for that decision at their upcoming meeting.

Violence by right-wing groups near the Cenotaph on Armistice Day was “unprecedented”, the Met Police’s deputy assistant commissioner said.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Laurence Taylor said: “What came as a surprise was the intent of the people who were coming.

“Particularly with that right-wing group, violence at 10 in the morning is unprecedented.”

Downing Street did not respond to queries about Mr Sunak’s protest crackdown.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...