The police want to restrict the Stop the Genocide, Ceasefire Now march for Palestine in London on Saturday. It’s more important than ever that people come to the march in huge numbers—and defy any police curbs.
The march organisers told the Metropolitan Police that it would finish with two stages, one in Trafalgar Square and one in Whitehall.
But the police want to pen the protesters into Trafalgar Square and not allow them to go further. The organisers say, “If we are not allowed access to Whitehall, it would also mean that days after the British government defied the ruling of the International Court of Justice on Israeli genocide, people would not be able to protest outside Downing Street.”
Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said on Wednesday, “The policing of the demonstrations we have been organising since October has been increasingly repressive with wanton employment of section 12 and Section 14 orders designed to intimidate and deter attendance.
“This includes an order threatening to arrest anyone who turned up before the advertised assembly time, massively impeding an operation that requires hundreds of stewards to arrive early.”
On recent demos the police have also handed out leaflets seeking to outlaw some slogans and images telling marchers that they had better obey “to avoid ending up in our cells”.
The best way to protect protest rights is to make clear they will be used.
In 2007 the cops tried to ban a Stop The War Coalition (STWC) march to parliament. Labour MP Tony Benn told a press conference, “I will be marching. It is entirely up to the police and government what they do.”
Undeterred, the organisers made clear they would continue to parliament, and the cops backed off.
In 2008 police wanted to stop an STWC march down Whitehall when US president George Bush came to Britain. A Stop the War spokesperson told the media, “We will defy the ban.” The march went ahead successfully.
In 2003, Labour’s culture secretary Tessa Jowell approved a ban on the 15 February demonstration against the war in Iraq “because of fears it might damage the grass” in Hyde Park.
Organisers ignored that move and on the day two million gathered in Hyde Park and marched.
The Tories and the police are itching to restrict pro-Palestine marches. But they were rebuffed. Back in October, the former home secretary Suella Braverman wrote to senior police chiefs claiming that “waving a Palestinian flag” may be a criminal offence. Protesters continued to fill the protests with flags.
Braverman then said the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” was “a staple of antisemitic discourse” and urged the police to act against it. Nobody was intimidated and now the chant is everywhere while Braverman was driven from office.
The size of the protests and refusal to be intimidated are the best protection against state restrictions.
Come to the demo on Saturday, and defy the cops’ ban.
Stop the Genocide, Ceasefire Now march, Sat 3 February, assemble 12 noon, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA
For the full statement on behalf of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Stop The War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain, Palestinian Forum in Britain and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament go to tinyurl.com/Demo0302