Hundreds of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through central London on Saturday, the biggest yet in a series of rallies in the UK’s capital to show support for the Palestinians and call for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
Police put the number of marchers at 300,000, while the rally’s organizers said as many as 800,000 people may have taken part.
The protest in London overlapped with Armistice Day, on which British citizens commemorate the soldiers who died in World War I.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned violence by far-right counter-demonstrators at the Cenotaph war memorial and also attacked “Hamas sympathisers” who joined the bigger rally for “singing antisemitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing on today’s protest.”
Some marchers chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a rallying cry viewed by many Jews as antisemitic and a call for Israel’s eradication. Others carried banners reading “Free Palestine,” “Stop the Massacre” and “Stop Bombing Gaza.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman called pro-Palestine demonstrators “hate marchers” in a lambasted op-ed in The Times of London earlier in the week.
Over 100 people were arrested as skirmishes between police and right-wing protesters continued throughout the day in central London, with police in riot gear using batons to try to contain protesters who threw bottles.
While the largest, the march in London was not the only demonstration Saturday.
In Wales, communists pushed through Cardiff holding red flags as they marched for a ceasefire. More than 20,000 participated in a Brussels rally, where some protesters demanded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be arrested for war crimes.
Since the fresh round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict on October 7, the Israeli military response has prompted widespread anger, with hundreds of thousands of protesters marching in the U.S., Paris, Barcelona, Cape Town, and Dublin calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
In Paris, left-wing lawmakers were among some 16,000 protesters who marched with pro-Palestinian banners and flags. Some politicians have welcomed President Emmanuel Macron’s call this week for a ceasefire and opposition to Israel’s bombing campaign.
In the U.S., hundreds of protesters rallied near President Joe Biden’s house in Wilmington, Delaware, shortly before he arrived for the weekend. Biden’s motorcade circumvented the demonstration, in which hundreds also walked down the tree-lined street to get closer to the Biden residence. Many wore the Palestinian flag and carried signs demanding a ceasefire.
(With input from agencies)
(Cover: Protesters walk across Vauxhall Bridge during a pro-Palestinian protest in London, Britain, November 11, 2023. /CFP)