No laws broken as pro-Palestinian protesters climb London war memorial, Metropolitan Police say

Video shows people scrambling up the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner last night, sparking criticism online, ITV News' Correspondent Geraint Vincent reports

No laws were broken by pro-Palestinian protesters who climbed a war memorial as they marched outside the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police has said.

Video shows people scrambling up the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner last night, sparking criticism online.

Downing Street described it as an “affront” which will have “appalled” the public.

Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley said his officers recognised the behaviour to be “unfortunate” and “inflammatory in certain ways” but insisted it was not illegal.

Speaking at the Institute for Government, he said it was for ministers to consider whether officers should be given further powers to respond to protests.

“The officer recognised that while it wasn’t illegal it was unfortunate, inflammatory in certain ways. The officers at the scene asked them to get down and they did.

“So the officers intervened as officers often do to try and de-escalate risk of conflict, even when there isn’t an explicit power to do it. So I think they did a sensible thing,” he said.

He also said there are elements of the current public order powers that “don’t work very well” which he will discuss with the government.

Home Secretary James Cleverly suggested laws could be changed to give police powers to prevent protesters clambering over war memorials.

Protesters show flags during a pro-Palestinian protest in front of the Houses of Parliament. Credit: AP

Mr Cleverly, who served in the Royal Artillery, told LBC Radio: “We are absolutely determined to look at this. (Veterans minister) Johnny Mercer, a former gunner officer – the Royal Artillery was my regiment as well, that’s my regimental memorial.”

The home secretary added: “I’m not going to let my personal feelings cloud my judgment on this but it is clearly wrong, and the police have said that they recognise it is deeply disrespectful for people to climb on war memorials.

“We have made a commitment to review the legislation around public order policing.

“I’m going to look at this in real detail – if the police need more powers to make sure that really deeply distasteful, provocative things like that do not happen for the public good, because of course this is about making sure it doesn’t stimulate violent action or any kind of violent responses, but if we need to take action specifically to give police more powers, we are looking at doing that.”

Officers said the protesters who climbed on the memorial were a breakaway group who had been dispersed at Hyde Park Corner.

A dispersal order was in place across parts of the City of Westminster from 7.50pm on Wednesday to 2am on Thursday.

Police said one arrest had been made at the protest for possession of an offensive weapon.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s an affront to our Armed Forces, it goes against our British values, it’s not acceptable.

“We will look at what further measures are needed so that the police can have confidence in taking action on this.

“We do believe there are extensive powers available to them but the public will have been shocked and I’m sure appalled by what they saw.”

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

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said: “We know some online have asked why the protesters were not arrested.

“There is no law explicitly making it illegal to climb on a memorial so officers cannot automatically arrest, but they can intervene and make it clear the behaviour isn’t acceptable.

“The videos shared online show them doing that.”

“Most people would agree that to climb on or otherwise disrespect a war memorial is unacceptable,” the statement said. “That is why our officers have made every effort to prevent it happening in recent days.

“While officers were on scene quickly, we regret they were not there quickly enough to prevent the protesters accessing the memorial.”