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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Met sets out policing plan for Al Quds Day march and counter protest

More than 500 officers will be deployed in central London this afternoon to police two demonstrations related to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The larger of the two demonstrations is organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. It is an annual event that takes place on the final Friday of Ramadan, referred to by organisers and participants as Al Quds Day. The march is in support of the Palestinian cause and in opposition to Israel.

The march will assemble outside the Home Office in Marsham Street from 3pm, before heading into Horseferry Road, along Millbank, past the front of the Houses of Parliament and finishing in Whitehall where speeches will take place.

The second demonstration is a pro-Israel counter protest. This will take the form of a static demonstration in Parliament Square.

We have been in discussion with the organisers of both demonstrations to set out our expectations and to remind them of the important role that we expect them to play, alongside their own stewards, in managing their demonstrations.

As we have done ahead of other protests in recent months, we will be distributing leaflets clearly setting out what is acceptable and what is not so that there can be no doubt about what constitutes a criminal offence.

We have imposed conditions under the Public Order Act on both demonstrations.

Al Quds Day route map. Image: Met Police

Anyone participating in the Al Quds Day march must stick to the pre-agreed route marked in red on the map to the left.

The conditions also set out that the assembly and speeches that follow the march must take place in Richmond Terrace just off Whitehall – shown in pink on the map below. They must finish by 7pm.

Al Quds Day assembly map. Image: Met Police

The aim is to keep Whitehall open to traffic during this time, however we have contingency plans should the number of people in attendance exceed the capacity of the designated area.

Those taking part in the pro-Israel protest are required to remain within the area in Parliament Square marked in blue on the map below.

Al Quds Day counter protest assembly map. Image: Met Police

Commander Colin Wingrove, who is leading the policing operation, said:“The conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to have a far reaching impact across communities including here in London.

“We recognise that there will be some who feel this march should not be allowed to take place at all.

“We work to the law. Parliament has determined that there are only very rare and specific circumstances when an application can be made to the Home Secretary for a protest to be banned. It requires a real risk of serious disorder and neither the intelligence picture nor the conversations we have had with organisers give us reason to believe that threshold will be met today.

“The rights of people to express their views through protest must be protected and our officers will ensure they are, but anyone who abuses those rights and uses them as an opportunity to commit offences or to promote hate can expect to face police action.

“We have set out our expectations clearly in discussions with the organisers of both demonstrations. We expect them to manage their events and we expect participants to remain within the law. If they do not, officers will act positively to intervene, to investigate and to deal with allegations.

“There have been a number of instances at protests in recent months where actions have taken place that are distasteful to many, but that don’t cross the line into criminality. Our role is to police without fear or favour right up to the line of the law, but our powers do not extend to policing taste and decency, no matter our view of what is being said.

“Where that line into criminality is crossed, we will step in. Anyone seen to be supporting a proscribed group, using hate speech, trying to directly interfere with the other protest or committing other offences will be dealt with by officers.”

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