Our series of peaceful mass protests have seen unprecedented restrictions

The organisers of the national Palestine marches have sent two dossiers and one letter to the Metropolitan Police of examples of restrictive, politicised, heavy-handed and violent policing during demonstrations.

From the negotiation process through to the attitude of the officers on the ground the policing has been much more hostile than is usual for large public protests.

A brief summary follows.

Restrictions on the right to protest

Attempted bans: In an extraordinary move, the government attempted to ban our 11 November demonstration. The police faced tremendous pressure from the then Home Secretary who coined the term ‘hate marches’ and the Prime Minister, and in turn placed a huge amount of pressure on the organisers to call off the demonstration.

When we refused, the police had to admit that banning the march would have been illegal and unjustified because there was no threat to public order. The demonstration passed off with almost no incident. Though around one hundred right wing counter demonstrators were arrested after attacking the police.

Since then, however, the police have twice tried to refuse us permission to march down Whitehall to the political centre of London and at other times to march in commercial areas. This is despite the police saying on social media that it is the organisers who chose the route of the marches.

Only strong public campaigning forced them to back down. On the most recent demonstration on 17 February we were refused permission to assemble near Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, the traditional centre of protest and free speech in the capital. No reason given.

Restriction ordersThe police have used Sections 12 and 14 or Section 60 of the Public Order Act to impose conditions on every single one of our demonstrations. This is unheard of for large, negotiated peaceful protest. Such restrictions are previously unknown to organisers of trade union demonstrations, anti-austerity demonstrations or indeed protests against the Iraq, Syria, Libya and Ukraine wars. They have not been used for the recent pro-Israel demonstrations.

From the start this movement has been treated differently by the police to any other comparable campaign

Politicised policing

The Metropolitan police have very publicly mobilised record numbers of police from across the country for the pro-Palestine demonstrations. This is despite the fact that the demonstrations have been overwhelmingly peaceful and without incident as the police themselves admit and as the Parliamentary Committee Report underlines.

Research has shown that there are three times more arrests per person at the Glastonbury festival than at the recent cycle of protests. Senior police officers have repeatedly told us they have been under enormous pressure to get tough with the Palestine demonstrators, a fact which is clear from the national media.

As we have repeatedly said, one simple solution to the problem of the drain on police resources is to scale down the police intervention to normal levels for peaceful protest. And yet the over-mobilisation of police continues.

To give a sense of the imbalance and prejudices at play here, it has come to our attention that members of the Campaign Against Anti-semitism, a group deeply hostile to the marches, have been present in the police control rooms during demonstrations. In another first, the police have at least twice issued leaflets for protestors (once again with great public fanfare) asking protestors to stay on the right side of the law.

Aggression/violent arrests/detentions

We have received multiple reports of violent arrests and interventions by the police, almost all for ‘offences’ involving slogans, placards or publications that the police object to or in some cases ‘being in possession of stickers’. There has rarely been a charge.

Here is a small sample of the complaints we have received:

On 17 February a young woman was violently bundled out of the crowd by a large group of police because she was holding a cardboard sign calling for an intifada. 30 officers surrounded her and shoved onlookers out of the way. One officer threw a bystander to the ground. Stewards, legal observers and press were aggressively removed from the vicinity. Police refused to say where she had been taken. The woman was held for 9 hours.

On the 9 December march, two terrified sisters, both hijab-wearing Muslim women in their early 20s, were forced down a small alleyway near the Bank assembly point by officers who refused to allow a march steward near them. The police said this was to examine their “offensive” placard. The women were extremely scared by the level of aggression and immediately offered to discard the placard, but one was arrested anyway and detained for hours.

At the same demonstration a group of police officers rushed into the body of the demonstration to arrest an elderly male marcher who was dressed as an undertaker, pulling a coffin. Their intervention was so violent it knocked a 79-year-old woman to the ground, breaking her hip. She was hospitalised and is still recovering. Despite complaining we have received no apology or explanation. No one was charged.

We have received many complaints from protestors who have been held for hours after being arrested for minor offences for which they are often not charged. One detainee on the last demonstration was questioned repeatedly repeatedly whether she hated Jews and whether she wanted to kill jews. Hostile treatment in detention is widespread.

Twitter storm

The Met has been conducting a Twitter campaign against our demonstrations, using language that implies they are threatening or dangerous when they are in fact overwhelmingly peaceful and disciplined. At various times their twitter feed has been completely dominated by news of arrests on our protests and by images of protestors wanted for ‘hate crimes.’

On the eve of demonstrations, they talked up the number of police mobilised in case of disorder and claimed they were being deployed to protect ‘communities,’ even though there is not a single case that has been brought to our attention of any violence being perpetrated by a demonstrator on any passer-by. This, during a series of nine demonstrations that has mobilised millions of people.

To give one example, on the night before the 17 February demonstrations they tweeted that precautions had been taken to ensure the presence of protesters did “not unnecessarily disrupt other premises, including synagogues”, creating the impression that demonstrators presented a threat to worshippers, when the Met knows that there have been no cases of any approach to a synagogue or any other worshippers on any of our demonstrations.

In the aftermath of demonstrations, the small number of arrests are always played up despite the fact that they are almost always for charges related to placards, t-shirts, slogans or stickers – the latter described in one Met tweet as ‘items liable to cause criminal damage’.

The police twitter narrative helps to create a completely unwarranted sense of threat around the demonstrations that is then echoed in the wider media.


The picture that emerges is one of a police force behaving in a discriminatory and hostile manner to legal protest. As pro-Palestine protestors we are being policed in a very different manner to other campaigns of a similar nature. Police behaviour on the streets and online has contributed to a general effort to paint peace protestors as a threat to the social fabric pursued by politicians who disagree with our calls for a ceasefire.

We have no doubt that the police are right when they say they have been put under heavy pressure by politicians, but we nevertheless condemn the approach they have taken in the strongest possible terms.

We have a meeting with Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist on Friday at which we will be raising all of these concerns and more.

29 Feb 2024

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