People, holding banners and Palestinian flags, gather to hold a massive pro-Palestine rally in the amid Israeli attacks on Gaza, in London.
The government is upping its rhetoric against the protests across the UK since the Israel-Hamas war began. But how many have there been, what happened at them, and why are they proving to be so controversial?
Israel declared war in response, launched retaliatory air strikes and ordered a complete siege on the Palestinian territory of Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims more than 8,000 people have been killed since.
Protests have been taking place around the world since the conflict broke out, but here’s a look at how the ones organised in the UK – particularly London – have unfolded.
The UK’s Israel-Hamas protests, so far
October 7-October 8
In the first 24 hours after the war began on October 7, the Metropolitan Policereported “a small number of low level public order incidents”, but no arrests were made.
The Met warned that anyone supporting Hamas – a group deemed a terror organisation by the UK government – would be arrested.
Monday, October 9
Stop The War organised a pro-Palestinian protest in London’s High Street Kensington, rallying outside the boarded-up Israeli embassy with flares and fireworks, calling for Israel to “end the occupation”.
Police appeared to be separating pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups near the local tube station.
Three arrests were made for assault on an emergency worker, racially-motivated criminal damage and possession of an offensive weapon.
Around 2,000 people also attended a vigil for Israel in Westminster, organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.
Saturday, October 14
Chants were aimed at the British government and the US over its support for Israel. Fifteen people were arrested at the protest in central London.
The headquarters of the BBC in Oxford Circus were also covered in red paint. It later emerged Palestine Action had “left a message overnight for the BBC” over its coverage of events in Israel and Gaza.
Protesters also gathered in Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, calling for governments to condemn the Israeli army’s actions. The Guardian suggested there were “tens of thousands of people” marching across the country.
Saturday, October 21
Up to 100,000 people marched in London’s National March for Palestine, according to the Met’s estimates.
There were reportedly 10 arrests.
Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, it began at Marble Arch and ended with speeches in Whitehall, including by Labour MP for Tower Hamlets, Apsana Begum.
Saturday, October 28
Another estimated 100,000 people gathered for a pro-Palestine rally in London, one of the larger demonstrations out of several taking place across the country.
More than 1,000 officers were on duty in the capital. Nine people were arrested, two on suspicion of assaulting police officers and seven for public order offences. Two more were arrested the following morning on suspicion of inciting racial hatred.
Still, the Met again described it as “largely peaceful”. Protesters marched from Victoria Embankment to Parliament Square.
Sisters Uncut held a smaller protest at Waterloo Station on Saturday, too, where 300 people attended in a blockade.
Tuesday, October 31
More than 100 gathered for a pro-Palestinian protest at London’s Liverpool Street train station.
Organised by Sisters Uncut protest group, who claim there were more than 500 people present, the demonstrators gathered during rush hour, chanting and waving pro-Palestinian flags and banners.
Thursday, November 2
Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with police at St Pancras station. Reuters news agency suggested there were more than 100 people present, hanging banners from balconies and occupying the main walkways while calling for a ceasefire.
British Transport Police told the Mirror: “Just after 8am today (November 2), our officers attended a sit-in protest at St Pancras railway station.
“The group were reported to be peaceful and there were no reports of disorder. There was no impact on the station services and by 8.45am the group had moved on.”
Why are the protests taking place in the UK causing a stir?
More protests are organised in the weeks ahead, but they have been discouraged by the government. Home secretary Suella Braverman even described them as “hate marches”.
Braverman has also slammed a chant popular among pro-Palestinian protesters, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
While some argue it is a call for liberation, Braverman says it is an anti-Semitic chant which encourages the destruction of Israel.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak has also spoken out against the protests planned to take place on Armistice Day on Saturday, November 11, claiming to demonstrate on a day would be “provocative and disrespectful”.
The Metropolitan Police commissioner Mark Rowley claimed on Thursday that in the month since Hamas attacked Israel, the successive weekend protests in the capital have been policed by a growing number of officers.
The most recent demonstration was monitored by 2,000 officers. Seventy arrests have been made and almost 100 more for hate crimes as anti-Jewish crimes increased by 14 times compared to last year, and anti-Muslim crimes climbed by three times.
This is all stretching the country’s largest police force, Rowley said, and warned that “mutual aid from other forces” may be needed.
Responding to the backlash that the police have not been as strict as they should have been over the protests, Rowley said: “There isn’t a sort of perfect solution to something that’s being driven by an international crisis, but the Met police will do everything it can do to reassure and protect Jewish communities.
“We are doing everything we can to police without fear or favour.”
Here’s a look at a few images from the protests
Pro-Palestinian protesters, including Jeremy Corbyn MP and Ismail Patel of Friends of al Aqsa, march through central London to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on 28th October 2023 in London.
People, holding banners and Palestinian flags, gather to hold a massive pro-Palestine rally in the amid Israeli attacks on Gaza, in London, United Kingdom on October 28, 2023.
Pro-Palestinian protesters march through central London to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on 28th October 2023 in London, United Kingdom.
Police officers and protesters clash close to Trafalgar Square during a March for Palestine in London. Picture date: Saturday October 14, 2023.
People take part in a demonstration in support of Palestine at the Israeli Embassy on October 9, 2023 in London, England.