pro-Palestine Protest London
Notably, a video circulated online featuring a man at a smaller rally near the main march chanting "jihad, jihad". Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

In a show of solidarity with Palestine, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of London for the second consecutive weekend, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and humanitarian aid. The Metropolitan Police estimated that up to 100,000 people participated in the march, which culminated in a rally near Downing Street.

Smaller protests occurred simultaneously in Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff and Salford. The peaceful demonstrations, while primarily pro-Palestinian in nature, have stirred debate and controversy in the UK, prompting government officials to take action and engage in discussions with law enforcement.

Policing the massive demonstration required the involvement of more than 1,000 officers and 10 individuals were arrested. Arrests were made in connection with possession of fireworks, public order offences, and assaulting an emergency service worker. In a notable development, a video emerged online depicting a man at a smaller rally near the main march chanting "jihad, jihad".

However, the Metropolitan Police stated that they had not identified any offences arising from the specific clip and would not be taking further action. Similarly, no further action was taken after reviewing photographs of protesters holding banners referring to "Muslim armies".

The government's intent to engage with the Metropolitan Police regarding their decisions came after Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick expressed his surprise at their analysis. He noted that "a lot of people" would find the Met's stance surprising and suggested that the matter would be discussed with law enforcement officials.

During the London march, protesters chanted a slogan that has raised controversy. The slogan, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", is interpreted by some as a call for the destruction of Israel.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously urged police chief constables to consider whether its use in certain contexts may constitute a racially aggravated offence. However, the Metropolitan Police clarified that the chant alone does not constitute a criminal act.

Simultaneous demonstrations in other cities further illustrated the widespread support for Palestine. In Belfast, protesters gathered outside BBC Northern Ireland headquarters, while in Cardiff, approximately 1,000 demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and supportive placards marched toward the Welsh Parliament.

The organisers of the Cardiff demonstration, representing several groups, called on the British and Welsh governments to insist on an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the delivery of "full humanitarian aid".

Maggie Morgan, a spokesperson from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign Cardiff, explained: "We are taking to the streets as a show of solidarity to the people of Gaza, to show our support for them, but also to make the government listen, and say 'not in our name, we're not having this'."

The conflict in Gaza has led to the closure of all crossings between Israel and Gaza, with the Rafah crossing, controlled by Egypt, also experiencing limited access. Despite these challenges, an aid convoy was permitted to enter Gaza, aiming to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.

Hamas - a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK, US and European Union - launched a deadly attack against Israeli civilians on 7 October.

The conflict in the region has taken a devastating toll, with over 1,400 people killed after gunmen breached security at the Gaza barrier and raided communities in southern Israel. Survivors have reported widespread atrocities, including torture and the burning of bodies.

Additionally, more than 200 people were taken to Gaza as hostages. Officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza have reported over 4,600 people killed in the last two weeks due to Israeli retaliatory airstrikes.

On the Israeli side, a spokesperson for the Israeli military announced intentions to "deepen" and "increase" the strikes to minimise risks to their forces in the next stages of the war.

The United Nations reported that the airstrikes on Gaza, a densely populated enclave bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and fenced off from Israel and Egypt, have displaced approximately 1.4 million people, with more than half a million taking refuge in shelters. The Israeli government, on the other hand, reported that about 200,000 Israelis have been displaced.

In response to the ongoing crisis, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 19, 2023. The meeting served as a significant diplomatic move, reflecting the UK's commitment to addressing the escalating conflict and its impact on the region.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conveyed his deep condolences to the Israeli people for the tragic loss of life and the hardship they have endured. He reaffirmed the UK's unwavering support for Israel's right to self-defence, emphasising that Israel's actions align with international humanitarian law.

The meeting highlighted the UK's solidarity with Israel's efforts to eliminate the threats posed by the ongoing conflict with Hamas.