Israel-Palestine: Protests around London as violence escalates in Middle East

Left: Pro-Palestine demonstrators at march on Saturday. Right: Pro-Israeli crowds at solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square on Sunday. Pic: Mekdes Kabeto and Imogen Adam

Multiple rallies took place across the capital this weekend after a two-week Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza in response to the October 7 Hamas militant attack inside Israel.

Saturday, October 21

Around 100,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched through central London this Saturday, calling for a ceasefire in the violence that has so far claimed more than 1,400 Israeli and more than 5,000 Palestinian lives.

The march was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, beginning at Marble Arch and ending with speeches in Whitehall.

The route of the pro-Palestine march. Pic: Imogen Adam

Apsana Begum, MP for Tower Hamlets, was one of the guest speakers to address the crowds.

“As we protest here, and similar protests take place around the world, we demand an immediate ceasefire and we demand an end to the total siege of Gaza and for the adequate amount of humanitarian aid to be distributed.”

The crowd waved hand-made banners with slogans reading ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Ceasefire’ and sang chants like “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinian” and “Brick by brick, wall by wall, apartheid must fall”.

Members of Tower Hamlets Trades Council were present at the march. Pic: Imogen Adam

Glyn Robbins, Tower Hamlets Trades Council member, told EastLondonLines: “I think it’s important that trade unions oppose wars. We’re here to defend working class people and the people who suffer and die in wars are working class, overwhelmingly. We’re here in solidarity with the people of Palestine who have been oppressed for decades. This didn’t all start three weeks ago”

Communities from across the world were protesting in central London. Pic: Imogen Adam.

Healthworkers from ELL boroughs were also at the march. Dr Farhana Rahman, a doctor from Croydon told ELL: “We’re here in solidarity with our medical colleagues in Gaza. What they need right now is a ceasefire, the situation is getting worse by the day. We want to raise awareness and demand the implementation of basic humanitarian laws.”

Rahman’s colleague, Dr Hina Shahid, added: “We’re really outraged by the bombing of medical facilities and attacks on medical personnel and the shortage of supplies such as food, water, and essential medication. We don’t want to have to keep coming to marches like this and watch the cycle of violence continue.”

‘Healthworkers for Palestine’ at the march. From Left to right: Dr Hina Shahid, Dr Ruba Shahid & Dr Farhana Rahman. Pic: Imogen Adam.

On October 20, the Metropolitan police announced the deployment 1,000 officers to police the protest.

The Met have confirmed that 10 arrests were made during the march, including two for offences under the Explosives Act 1875, after fireworks were launched at police officers.

Other arrests were for offences involving public order and assaulting an emergency service worker.

A third protest march is planned for next Saturday, October 28 at midday in Victoria Embankment.

Sunday, October 22

Crowds gathered at Trafalgar Square to demand the release of Israeli hostages. Pic: Selin Oztuncman

Around 5,000 people rallied in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, calling for the release of Israeli hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 and whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

The number of hostages taken by Hamas is now believed to be 220, with two elderly Israeli women freed late on Monday, after an Israeli American mother and daughter were released the Friday before.

The rally was organised by Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), the Board of Deputies of British Jews and UJIA Emergency Community Appeal (UJIA).

Michael Gove, the communications secretary, addressed the rally: “Words matter and promises matter, and the world made a promise 75 years ago: never again. And what did we see a fortnight ago? The biggest, most horrific slaughter of Jewish people since the Holocaust, carried out by terrorists, an act of evil, unparalleled evil and barbarism. We must stand together against it. We must stand for life. We must bring the hostages home.”

Protest signs in Trafalgar Square. Pic: Selin Oztuncman.

Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis said in his speech: “It is at a time such as this that we discover who our true friends are. Your Majesty King Charles, thank you for your support.”

He went on to thank the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Sir Kier Starmer and Sir Ed Davey, who have all made public statements supporting Israel.

“Israel uses her forces in order to protect her citizens, while Hamas uses its citizens to protect it’s forces,” he said.

“With regard to the poor, more than 200 women, men and children who have been taken hostage, we cry out and say bring them home.”

Demonstrators waved Israeli flags and carried posters of the hostages. Many chanted “Bring them home.”

A minute’s silence was then held in honour of the hostages.

The hostage posters were distributed by the Israeli New York-based project ‘Kidnapped’ and have been used around the world.

Protesters underwent bag checks on arrival at Trafalgar Square amid heightened security. The Community Security Trust (CST) – a charity that protects British Jews from anti-semitism were also present.

Police said two arrests were made, one for a racially aggravated public order offence after a man drove past shouting what police officers said was anti-Semitic abuse.

Another man was arrested made at the end of the vigil for a public order offence after shouting abuse at those taking part.

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