Fears are growing that members of the far-Right will clash with protesters during a pro-Palestinian march planned to take place on Armistice Day.
More than 70,000 people are expected to flock to London on Saturday to protest against Israel‘s bombardment of Gaza – a few hours after a two-minute silence will be held at the Cenotaph for fallen servicemen and women.
Metropolitan Police chief Sir Mark Rowley was last night facing growing pressure to call for a ban on the demonstration after Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said he had ‘grave concerns’ about the event.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk urged pro-Palestinian groups to heed the call from the Met Police to postpone the march while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak referred to the plans as ‘provocative and disrespectful.’
Now there are fears that the march will be confronted by members of the far-Right – with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson rallying his likeminded peers to join him on Saturday.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, wrote on X yesterday shortly after he was reinstated to the social media platform: ‘Saturday 11/11/11 London, your country needs you.’
English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson calls on people to join him in the capital on Saturday
Yesterday, Robinson tweeted: ‘Saturday 11/11/11 London, your country needs you’
More than 70,000 people are expected to flock to central London on Saturday to protest against Israel ‘s bombardment of Gaza. Pictured: Those protesting last Saturday
In a ranting video, Robinson spoke of ‘a mass of men who are willing to stand for their country’.
The tirade came after Jonathan Hall KC, the independent reviewer of terror legislation, warned that there were concerns of ‘an extreme Right-wing terrorist backlash’ if Saturday’s demonstration against the conflict in the Middle East goes ahead.
Mr Hall warned that Islamists had used a previous Remembrance Day protest as a ‘recruitment method’.
He added that the demonstration had been used to ‘de-legitimise soldiers’, which was later seen when Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered in 2013.
It comes as the Prime Minister has warned that any desecration of monuments or incidents of racial hatred would be an ‘affront to the public’.
This morning, former Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson slammed the protest as ‘tone deaf’ and ‘insensitive’.
He told LBC: ‘I do think it’s hugely regrettable that organisations think it’s appropriate to march on this particular date on this weekend… At the very least, it would seem to me to be tone deaf and somewhat insensitive.’
The former police boss added: ‘The decision of the Commissioner to apply to the Home Secretary for a ban, I think, is a delicate and tricky one.
‘These judgments may go to the wire, with responsible police leadership working hard to bring about an appeal for common sense resolution.’
Pro-Palestine marches have been taking place each Saturday since the conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7 following the terrorist group’s deadly attack
Metropolitan Police officers have been standing on guard at the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall following a row over removing flags
Dismayed British Royal Legion poppy sellers could only look on after pro-Palestine protesters engaged in a sit-in protest at Charing Cross station
The tensions come after the Home Secretary came under fire for calling the pro-Palestine demonstrations that have taken place in recent weeks ‘hate marches’.
While the Justice Secretary joined the calls for the demonstration to be postponed, he pointedly distanced himself from using Suella Braverman’s language.
He made clear that while he would not use the language of ‘hate marchers’ there was no ‘confusion’ on the Government’s standpoint on the demonstrations on Saturday.
Mr Chalk told Radio 4’s Today: ‘There is no doubt there are elements on these marches that I’m afraid are espousing hate … but equally there will be those people who are there expressing their anguish at some of the untold suffering.
‘The concern must be whether those people who have perfectly legitimate intentions and concerns are directly or indirectly supporting those people who are espousing hate.’
Richard Graham, Tory MP for Gloucester, said: ‘Tone matters. It’s our duty to calm not inflame: to reduce, not increase, tensions. The language of the Home Secretary whether on tents or on marches is unhelpful to cohesion in our communities and is not in my name: nor does it reflect how we tackle issues in Gloucester.’
Calls have been made for the protest to be banned on the day of Remembrance but members of the group organising the march – Friends of Al Aqsa – have resisted adding that it plans to uphold its ‘democratic freedoms including the right to protest’.
The group, who have now been urged by the Met Police and Home Secretary Suella Braverman to call off the march, previously said it had ‘no intention of marching on or near Whitehall’ adding that a decision had been made ‘in order to not interfere with the events at the Cenotaph’.
Yesterday the London force warned of a ‘growing’ risk of violence and disorder from breakaway groups from the protest.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: ‘This is of concern ahead of a significant and busy weekend in the capital.
‘Our message to organisers is clear: Please, we ask you to urgently reconsider. It is not appropriate to hold any protests in London this weekend.’
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign group – who also helped organise the march – said it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the statement.
While other groups involved in the demonstration, such as Stop the War and the Muslim Association of Britain, insisted they would press ahead with the march.
Tensions had been growing since the Prime Minister last week warned that there was a ‘clear and present risk’ that the Cenotaph.
On Saturday 78-year-old poppy seller, called Jim Henderson, said he was forced to pack up and leave Waverley station in Edinburgh as 1,200 pro-Palestine protesters staged a concourse sit in.
Poppy-seller Jim Henderson said he was kicked and punched at Edinburgh Waverley
Social media footage shows the 78-year-old trying to escape
Protesters blew whistles, waved Palestinian flags and held up placards which said ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Boycott Apartheid Israel’
Following Saturday’s ordeal, Mr Henderson told the Mail: ‘I was getting shoved backwards, in danger of falling, and one of them stood on my foot and split my toe.
‘So I thought I had got to get the money out of here. So I went down, and as I bent down someone punched me in the back. And then I got another punch in my side.’
He said that he managed to get up and was rescued by three ladies in red railway uniforms. ‘I’ve never known anything like it,’ he said. ‘Chanting. Saying it’s all about the British Government, British people, Jews.’
The former veteran, who says he served in the Royal Corps of Signals, 32 Regiment, during the Troubles, added: ‘You don’t do that, and kick someone from behind and that was when I couldn’t get out of the way. That’s when I bent down and…bang.’
In London, three collectors were surrounded by chanting crowds at Charing Cross station, as they continued to sit with their money tins in the station.