UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday condemned far-right protesters and Hamas sympathisers, as hundreds of thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters marched through London calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war in Gaza.
Nearly 2,000 police were out in force to keep rival groups apart, with the march organised on Armistice Day, the annual event when Britain remembers its war dead with solemn ceremonies at war memorials.
The march went ahead after a week of tensions, which saw the government call for it to be scrapped, and police said they made scores of arrests, reports AFP.
Some 150 people from the mass protest were detained under public order legislation for wearing face coverings and setting off fireworks, while 82 counter-protesters were held to prevent them infiltrating the main march.
Groups of men, many wearing black with their faces covered and waving England’s St George’s flag and the Union Jack, tried to break through police lines at The Cenotaph war memorial on Whitehall.
Police in riot gear then faced a barrage of bottles in nearby Chinatown, the Metropolitan Police said.
“I condemn the violent, wholly unacceptable scenes we have seen today from the EDL (English Defence League) and associated groups and Hamas sympathisers attending the ‘National March for Palestine’,” said Sunak in a statement.
“The despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully.”
Sunak, who has resisted calls for him to back a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas, said far-right “thugs”, anti-Semitic chants and pro-Hamas signs and clothing had marred remembrance weekend.
“All criminality must be met with the full force of the law,” he added.