Ceasefire Now march to US Embassy, London 11th November 2023. Photo: Steve Eason

Some weeks ago, we made a request for a meeting with Sir Mark Rowley, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to discuss the increasingly politicised policing of the ‘Ceasefire Now’ Palestine solidarity marches. Having not had a response, we now make that request public.

Once again last Saturday (25th November) there was an extremely large police presence from across the country to monitor a peaceful ceasefire demonstration. Again, the police issued a Section 12 order restricting the march, without warning the organisers until the afternoon before the demonstration. Section 12 orders have, in our experience, rarely been issued for peace demonstrations before our current cycle of marches.

This time the Section 12 order imposed suggested that anyone who turned up early to the march before the advertised assembly time would be at risk of arrest. Such an injunction threatened our ability as march organisers to enact all of the preparations, including marshalling hundreds of stewards, required to ensure that a march of several hundred thousand people could proceed in an orderly fashion. These preparations require people fulfilling stewarding and other organising roles to arrive well in advance of the assembly time advertised for the beginning of the march. On the day, the police refused to close the roads at the agreed time creating a dangerous stand-off between traffic and marchers.

The Metropolitan Police also took the unprecedented step of issuing leaflets warning of possible arrests and publicising this in advance, creating a harmful media narrative about possible disorder and hatred on the march. They then kettled peaceful protestors for an hour in Whitehall at the end of the demonstration. This style of policing creates fear and danger and unreasonably smears hundreds of thousands of people with a “guilty until proven innocent” assumption about the motivation of their attendance.

The police have repeatedly stated publicly that the Palestine marches have been peaceful and well organised. The number of arrests has been small for such large mobilisations. In our meetings the police have themselves admitted they are being politically pressured to take a strong stand against our marches.

We urge Sir Mark Rowley to agree to a meeting to discuss these issues as soon as possible.

Statement on behalf of: Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Stop the War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain, Palestinian Forum in Britain and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

29 Nov 2023 by Stop the War

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