Twelve arrested as thousands called for Gaza ceasefire at London protest

Demonstrators in central London on Saturday Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Twelve people were arrested at a pro-Palestine demonstration in central London as protesters called for a ceasefire in Gaza as Israel prepares to invade the southern city of Rafah.

The arrests were for a string of alleged offences, including inciting racial hatred, suspicion of support for a proscribed organisation in relation to a placard, and assaulting emergency workers.

Between 200,000 and 250,000 people were expected at the demonstration, according to a spokesman for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The Metropolitan Police put the number at 30,000.

Protesters met at the south of Park Lane, holding banners calling for a “ceasefire now” and chanting “free, free Palestine”, before leaving for designated place near the Israeli embassy where speeches would be made.

It comes amid a looming ground invasion of Rafah – the final refuge of many Gazans – with the southern city now home to around 1.5 million Palestinians who fear they will have nowhere safe to flee.

Among the speakers was former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Palestinian ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot, who both called for “justice” for the Palestinian people.

The Islington North MP also told the crowd he will be voting in support of a ceasefire motion being held by Westminster next week, due to be tabled by the Scottish National Party.

Before the march began at 1.30pm, the Metropolitan Police announced on X, formerly Twitter, that officers had arrested one person on suspicion of support for a proscribed organisation in relation to a placard.

About two hours later they tweeted: “Officers have made nine further arrests during an incident at Hyde Park Corner.

“A man was seen in the crowd with an antisemitic placard. He has been arrested for inciting racial hatred.

A police officer talking to a person taking part in a pro-Palestine march Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA

“When officers went in to arrest him they were assaulted, resulting in six arrests for assaulting an emergency worker.

“Two other people were arrested for refusing to remove face coverings when required to do so by officers under Section 60AA of the Public Order Act.”

At around 4pm, the Met announced one further arrest “for an antisemitic placard”, bringing the total number of arrests so far to 11.

The force explained that the Section 60AA order requires anyone wearing a face covering “for the purpose of concealing their identity” to remove it when asked to do so.

Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn takes part in a pro-Palestine march in central London Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA

As a result of the incident at Hyde Park Corner, a Section 60 order is now in force in the same area until the same time, providing officers with additional search powers “to prevent further violence”, the Met added.

A Section 35 dispersal order was put place until 11pm, meaning anyone refusing a direction to leave the area can be arrested.

However, a Section 60AA order and Section 35 were withdrawn earlier in the evening as they were no longer required.

Police stopped a “pro-Palestinian car convoy” in Neasden, north-west London.

“In previous years, convoys have driven through areas with significant Jewish communities causing fear for residents,” the Met said.

“Specialist traffic officers, with the support of the police helicopter, are now monitoring the convoy to ensure there is no repeat of that today.”

Mr Corbyn took to the stage amid raucous applause, telling the crowd: “We’ve got to carry on. This is the 14th national demonstration and there’s going to be as many more as it takes until there is a ceasefire, until there is justice for the Palestinian people.”

He added: “We’re witnessing something globally horrific in real time on our televisions.

“And so on Wednesday, when the UK Parliament has a motion before it tabled by the Scottish National Party, I am signing in support of that motion.

“And I want every one of you here demand, demand of your MP, your elected representative, be there, vote for a ceasefire.

“No ifs, no buts, no qualifications.”

Mr Zomlot told the crowd: “You see what is happening, you are horrified at what is happening, you are shocked to your core at the inaction of your government.

Protesters took to London streets on Saturday Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA

“Hang on to your anger, hang on to your enragement, hang on to your horror and use it, use it in the pursuit of justice.”

Just before 6.30pm the Met posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Today’s protest has now fully concluded. There were 12 arrests for placard related offences, assaults on officers and refusal to remove face coverings. Thankfully, none of the officers who were assaulted were seriously injured. “Despite these arrests, the overwhelming majority who took part were peaceful and acted entirely with the law. We worked closely with the organisers and their stewarding team in the run up to and during the protest and we’re grateful for their cooperation.”

At least 28,663 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its military operation in the strip in October in response to the October 7 attacks, where militants killed some 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage.

Israel is being urged not to send ground forces into Rafah on the Egyptian border, where many of the strip’s citizens are now living after areas closer to their homes became engulfed by fighting.

Much of the international community is concerned that Palestinians who have fled to the southern city during the war will have nowhere else to go.

Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu said a “total victory” against Hamas requires the offensive, once people living there evacuate to safe areas.

However, places previously designated as safe areas during the war have still been bombed, and questions remain over where citizens will go within a largely devastated Gaza Strip.

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