Law changes proposed to curb ‘weekly takeovers’ by pro-Palestine protesters

Law changes have been proposed to help police deal with the “weekly takeovers” of central London by pro-Palestine protesters.

Thousands of people joined the latest march on Saturday, and police made seven arrests during the large event including a man seen carrying a coffin with offensive language written on it, Scotland Yard said.

Officers also arrested a man appearing to lead an offensive chant and damage a traffic light in Regent Street.

An antisemitism campaign group has called for the regular protests to be “brought to an end”.

The latest march took place on the 76th anniversary of the “Nakba” – meaning catastrophe, used by Palestinians to describe the establishment of the state of Israel.

A 74-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a provocation of violence during a counter-protest in Piccadilly Circus, police said.

Nakba 76 demonstration
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn takes part in the demonstration (Aaron Chown/PA)

The charity Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) has proposed clarifications to sections of the Public Order Act to make clear “police have the power” to stop protests from taking over swathes of central London at weekends.

The Met’s handling of the marches has been “an expensive shambles”, said CAA chief executive Gideon Falter.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has faced calls to resign over the force’s handling of pro-Palestinian protests.

A Home Office spokesperson thanked the CAA for its proposals and told the PA news agency it would be “looking closely at them”.

“The right to protest is a cornerstone of our democracy, but there are clear concerns about the cumulative impact protests are having on some of our communities which we are looking at,” the spokesperson said.

“All communities should be able to go about their daily lives without fear. We have been clear with the police that they must use all the powers available to them to police protests appropriately and will always have our backing in doing so.”

Nakba 76 demonstration
People take part in a Nakba 76 pro-Palestine demonstration and march in London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Lord Walney, the Government’s adviser on political violence, is due to publish a report into political violence and disruption early next week.

Mr Falter said the “weekly takeovers” of parts of central London “must be brought to an end”.

“Week after week, we have seen excuses instead of arrests and officers ‘contextualising’ offences away instead of enforcing the law,” he said.

“We are also calling for the Home Secretary to issue mandatory directions to the Mayor of London, who has spent months shirking his responsibility to keep London safe for all its communities.”

Chief Superintendent Colin Wingrove, who is leading this weekend’s policing operation, said: “We have worked with organisers of today’s events to ensure people could protest safely whilst at the same time minimising serious disruption to the community.

“Officers made swift interventions to make arrests where criminal offences were suspected.”