Organisers of pro-Palestine marches fear ban on Saturday’s protest in London | Israel-Hamas war

Organisers of pro-Palestine marches that have brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of London have raised fresh concerns that a major protest planned for Saturday could be banned.

Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, held a meeting with senior Metropolitan police officers on Monday to finalise details of the route – but there is growing anxiety that the home secretary, Suella Braverman, will intervene.

The protest is scheduled to start at 12.45pm on Saturday 11 November – Remembrance Day – at Hyde Park corner and end at the US embassy in south-west London, more than a mile from the Cenotaph, where formal remembrance events will be held the next day.

The prime minister’s spokesperson earlier on Monday described the planned event as “provocative” and “disrespectful”.

The marchers are calling for a ceasefire in the war that broke out last month after Hamas killed 1,400 people in Israel and took more than 200 hostages. Thousands of civilians in Gaza have been killed in the Israeli military operation since, according to Gaza’s health authority.

The Met police could apply to the home secretary for a ban under section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986 on the grounds that there is a risk of serious disorder.

“I would say now, there are absolutely no legitimate grounds for doing that,” Jamal said. “Some time ago, we indicated that on the 11th, we would not be going anywhere near [the Cenotaph] … We knew that would be … inappropriate.”

Jamal added: “We’ve not had that information [of an imminent ban] from the police. But what I’m aware of is the police are under immense pressure.”

Speaking earlier on Monday, Jonathan Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, suggested he would be concerned by an attempt to ban the march. “My instinct must be that you should always err in favour of freedom of expression,” he said, adding that he hoped the protest would be closely controlled.

On Sunday, the deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden, became the latest senior government figure to criticise the protests after Braverman’s description of them as “hate marches”.

Asked whether he was suggesting the police should ban Saturday’s protest, Dowden told Sky: “I do have very grave concerns about that march, both in terms of how it sits with acts of solemn remembrance and the kind of intimidation that is being sent out by the chants and everything else that goes on at those marches.

“I think it is right that it is the law of the land that the police are operationally independent. But I think it is important that they consider those factors, yes.”

The prime minister’s spokesperson said on Monday that Sunak did not see all the protests held in recent weeks as “hate marches”, but pointed to language from some protesters that was “frankly terrifying” for Jewish communities.

“We saw some evidence of hateful behaviour at the marches, including arrests for inciting racial hatred, but obviously it remains the case rightly that people are able to, peacefully, within the law, express their views,” the spokesperson said.

“To plan these sorts of protests in and around Armistice Day is provocative, it’s disrespectful. Should memorials be desecrated or should we see some of the instances of racial hatred for which there were arrests at the weekend be expressed on these days? I think that would be an affront to the British public.”

Jamal said his organisation and others involved in arranging the marches, which have attracted more than 100,000 people on recent Saturdays, would take legal advice if they were handed a ban.

A further meeting between the organisers of the protests and the Met is expected on Tuesday.

Previous marches have gone past Parliament Square in central London but the route this Saturday has been diverted.

Jamal said they wanted “a route well away from [Whitehall], but [with] a genuine political purpose, which is why we landed on marching to the US embassy for obvious reasons, because who is the primary agent in not pressing Israel for a ceasefire? Well, it is the US government.

“Now our government is equally culpable, but we know our government follows the US government.”

Akiko Hart, the interim director of Liberty, said: “In a functioning democracy, people must be able to stand up to power and make their voices heard. Shutting down protests would be a shocking breach of our right to freedom of expression, and would only serve to create even greater division.”

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