How ‘Day of Action’ turned ugly: Dismayed poppy sellers surrounded by pro-Palestinian protesters, a crowd chanting ‘shame on you’ at child leaving McDonald’s and tube passengers shouting ‘smash the Zionist state’ – as Met makes 29 arrests
Pro-Palestinian activists’ latest ‘Day of Action’ ended in ugly scenes as protesters surrounded British Legion poppy sellers at a train station and chanted ‘shame on you’ at a young child leaving a McDonald’s – while fireworks were launched at police.
Heartbreaking images showed dismayed poppy sellers shamelessly surrounded by chanting pro-Palestine activists in Charing Cross station, prompting condemnation from veterans minister Johnny Mercer, who offered to ‘rattle a tin’ with the charitable trio.
Videos shared on social media of activists travelling to Trafalgar Square – where largely peaceful protests gave way to ugly scenes of fireworks being hurled at police – showed protesters chanting to ‘smash the Zionist settler state’.
And families leaving a McDonald’s in the capital were hounded amid a row over Israeli franchised restaurants giving free and discounted food to IDF soldiers. Other franchises in the Middle East have distanced themselves from the stunt.
The Metropolitan Police says it has arrested 29 people in connection with crimes ranging from terrorism offences to breaching a dispersal order that was enacted by the force after fireworks were hurled at officers, injuring four.
Dismayed British Royal Legion poppy sellers could only look on after pro-Palestine protesters engaged in a sit-in protest at Charing Cross station
A youngster clutches a small box from his McDonald’s meal as his family steer him through a crowd of pro-Palestinian activists shouting ‘shame on you’
Police arrested 29 people on Saturday in connection with various alleged offences linked to the pro-Palestine protests
Police scuffle with pro-Palestinian protesters near Piccadilly Circus on Saturday during the latest ‘day of action’ since Hamas’ terror attack in Israel on October 7
At Charing Cross station, dismayed looking poppy sellers could only look on as pro-Palestine activists staged a sit-in on Saturday afternoon.
The British Transport Police temporarily closed the station to passengers while the protest took place, before ‘actively engaging with protestors’ to bring the action to a close. No arrests were made.
Veterans minister Johnny Mercer, having been made aware of the plight, has offered to help the British Legion volunteers on Sunday, writing on X, formerly Twitter: ‘If anyone knows these poppy sellers please DM me. I will try and rattle a tin with them tomorrow.’
He added: ‘London is a big city; there are plenty of areas to protest – the right for which Servicemen and women are proud to serve – without appearing to try and intimidate ordinary citizens trying to collect a bit of cash for Poppy Day – a non-political symbol.’
Elsewhere, grinning pro-Palestine activists could be seen laughing to themselves as they hounded families leaving McDonald’s on Saturday.
A young child, clutching a small bright red and yellow McDonald’s box, was among those leaving the restaurant under the watchful eye of police.
The fast food chain has been the focus of a number of pro-Gazan protest actions – including the release of mice in restaurants – because Israeli franchises have been offering discounted food to Israel Defence Forces soldiers.
Other McDonald’s franchises in the Middle East – including those in Oman and Pakistan – have distanced themselves from the Israeli franchise’s actions, reports Newsweek.
And McDonalds’ parent corporation has slammed the ‘disinformation and inaccurate reports’ around the controversy in remarks reported by BBC News.
A spokesperson said: ‘McDonald’s Corporation is not funding or supporting any governments involved in this conflict, and any actions from our local developmental licensee business partners were made independently without McDonald’s consent or approval.
‘Our hearts are with all of the communities and families impacted by this crisis. We abhor violence of any kind and firmly stand against hate speech, and we will always proudly open our doors to everyone.’
Police chiefs have slammed the ‘disappointing’ behavior in some quarters as protests took place across the country in the latest consecutive weekend of action following the start of Israel’s counter attack against Hamas following the October 7 attacks.
Protesters en route to Trafalgar Square from Kensington – where the Israeli embassy in London is located – shouted chants to ‘smash the Zionist settler state’ and called for ‘intifada (uprising) revolution’.
Fireworks have been hurled at the police as they stood on the steps of Trafalgar Square while monitoring pro-Palestine protests
Police in Glasgow had to separate pro-Palestine activists from a group who held up an Israeli flag in solidarity with the country
It came after protesters waved a banner depicting a bulldozer breaking down an Israeli border fence, a protester waved a sign of an Israel flag being put into a bin, and a man was arrested with a sign bearing a threat to ‘blow up’ the House of Lords.
It marked a further sullying of largely peaceful action that has repeatedly been marred by tasteless signs and chants appearing to endorse the actions of Hamas after it slaughtered 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a terror attack on October 7.
The Met enacted a dispersal order at 6.43pm after fireworks were launched in Trafalgar Square, with some directed at officers standing on the steps in front of the National Gallery who were monitoring the protests that were attended by some 30,000 people.
Videos shared on social media showed fireworks being launched at police officers who lined the stairs in front of the National Gallery to monitor the protests, believed to have been attended by more than 30,000 people.
Some 1,300 officers were on duty for the protests.
Commander Karen Findlay, who is responsible for policing across the capital this week, said: ‘The vast majority of people demonstrated peacefully during an extremely busy day in central London, with protests in a number of locations requiring a policing presence.
‘It is disappointing that various splinter groups were again responsible for behaviour which has no place in London and we are determined to deal with this robustly. Fireworks were directed towards officers and four officers were injured.
‘Today, we dealt with breakaway groups from the main protest quickly. Officers intervened to prevent further disruption, using the full range of powers at their disposal. This effective intervention ensured Londoners were able to go about their business.
‘I would like to say thank you to all the officers on duty today, including the support we had from a number of colleagues on mutual aid from other forces, all of whom worked tirelessly throughout a long day.’
In all, the Met made 29 arrests, including: nine for public order offences, of which two were racially aggravated; two on suspicion of terror offences related to the wording of a banner; three for assaulting a police officer; and 10 for breaching a dispersal order.
Arrests were also made for inciting racial hatred, causing actual bodily harm, affray, violent disorder and possession of an offensive weapon.
The clashes erupted late on Saturday following nationwide protests on a ‘day of action’ in which activists in 40 locations across the UK called for a ceasefire.
The Metropolitan Police shared an image of officers on the steps of Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery after announcing that a dispersal order was in effect
A line of police officers scatter pro-Palestine protesters on Whitehall on Saturday night after the Met enacted a dispersal order
Protesters had earlier lit flares and waved flags as they called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, which has killed some 1,400 Israelis and over 9,000 Palestinians since October 7.
Tensions had flared between protesters and police throughout the day as protests also took place outside the BBC, while sit-in protests took place in Oxford Circus and at Charing Cross railway stations before being dispersed.
Activists then poured into Trafalgar Square in the afternoon for the mass action, which saw former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and comedian Alexei Sayle address the crowds from a stage set up in the square.
Thousands of protesters packed out Trafalgar Square in scenes that were largely peaceful.
Some waved effigies representing the bodies of babies and children in a bid to highlight the 3,000-plus children alleged to have been killed in Israeli retaliatory strikes since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health authority.
Photographs of some of the younger victims of Israel’s counter-attack, which has raged on without pause for almost a month, were laid out in frames in Trafalgar Square during the protest.
However, the action was marred by people carrying signs that appeared to express support for Hamas.
One protester waved a placard on Saturday that depicted a bulldozer ploughing through a chain link fence, with the controversial slogan: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.
The drawing appeared to be a reference to a photo of a bulldozer crashing through the Israel-Gaza border on October 7, when Hamas terrorists slaughtered Israeli civilians.
At least one protester was seen carrying a banner which read ‘Let’s keep the world clean’ with a picture of an Israeli flag being thrown into a bin.
A similar banner displayed at a protest in Warsaw was condemned by the Israeli ambassador to Poland as ‘blatant antisemitism’.
Some demonstrators climbed on top of the square’s famous fountains as the mostly peaceful group waved flags and banners and let off fireworks on Saturday afternoon.
Security was tight around the Cenotaph on London’s Whitehall on Saturday – amid fears that it could be vandalised during further pro-Palestine action on Armistice Day next week
Images showed one man being restrained by police who could be seen holding a sign that read: ‘I am going to blow up the House of Lords’.
The Met said it rolled out hi-tech crime-busting facial recognition technology that helped to identify, among others, a man suspected of making antisemitic comments during a speech on Saturday.
Officers arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence after footage was shared on social media of a speaker at a pro-Palestine march of a man who allegedly suggested the October 7 attacks were the ‘biggest blow to Zionism that we’ve seen in our lifetimes’.
Protesters also gathered for a sit-in at Charing Cross station, which is near to Trafalgar Square in central London, on Saturday evening.
The British Transport Police (BTP) said it dispersed protesters under the Public Order Act 2023, without making any arrests.
It also confirmed on Saturday that it is making inquiries into chanting on the Tube network by demonstrators in the capital.
In one video highlighted to the Metropolitan Police on X, formerly known as Twitter, what appear to be pro-Palestinian supporters can be heard chanting: ‘Smash the Zionist settler state.’
Others during the protests chanted ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.
Among those protesting in the square appeared to be members of Neturei Karta, a fringe group of Orthodox Jews that does not believe in the need for the state of Israel.
In Manchester, the British Transport Police said it arrested one person on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence. Around 400 to 500 people protested at the station, officers say.
In Belfast on Saturday afternoon, pro-Palestinian activists marched from Queen’s University to the US consulate building in the south of the city.
The rally organised near the consulate heard speeches and chants condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza and the United States’s support for the Israeli stance.
A protest in Glasgow saw the BBC headquarters in the Scottish city targeted by demonstrators, with activists holding up mock body bags.
Police also had to separate pro-Palestine activists from a small group who held up an Israeli flag in solidarity with the country.
In Newcastle, several women were pictured holding bloody effigies of dead babies while one dressed in a white shroud covered in fake blood.
Protesters calling for an end to the ‘siege of Gaza’ from the Stop the War Coalition march in Glasgow
Bloodied children’s dolls were held aloft as hundreds of Palestine supporters marched through the city centre to protest against the ongoing war.
Flags and placards reading ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and ‘End the Genocide’ were waved in the air by members of the Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign (NPSC) and Newcastle Stop the War, who organised the event.
The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has previously branded the ‘from the river to the sea’ slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is ‘widely understood’ to call for the destruction of Israel – a claim pro-Palestinian protesters have contested.
The Home Secretary has also previously caused controversy by describing the demonstrators taking to the streets in support of a ceasefire in Gaza as being involved in ‘hate marches’.
Some pro-Palestine marches have been sullied by activists who have allegedly expressed support for Hamas, a proscribed terror group in the UK.
The Met Police has charged two women with terror offences after they allegedly wore images of paragliders to protests last month – in apparent reference to Hamas fighters crossing Israel’s border by air to indiscriminately kill civilians during the October 7 attacks.
A group of campaigners also gathered outside the Home Office in Westminster in opposition to Ms Braverman’s comments on refugees and tents pitched by homeless people in public spaces.
The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have expressed concern about the prospect of further pro-Palestine protests next Saturday, November 11, during Armistice Day.
Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has promised to take a ‘robust approach’ and to use ‘all the powers available’ to ensure commemorative events are ‘not undermined’.
But demonstration organisers in London have pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph war memorial – the focus of national remembrance events – is located.