Suella Braverman has doubled down on her attacks on pro-Palestine protesters, claiming that the streets of London are “polluted by hate, violence, and antisemitism”.
The home secretary condemned violence against police on Armistice Day as “outrageous”, despite having been blamed for whipping up the far-right mob that descended on London on Saturday.
She refused to back down in her criticism of protesters, attacking what she called “sick, inflammatory and, in some cases, clearly criminal chants” on the pro-Palestine march, adding: “This can’t go on.”
But she backtracked on her accusations of police bias to thank the “brave” officers who faced violence on Saturday – without acknowledging that the overwhelming majority of the 145 arrests were of far-right activists.
“Members of the public are being mobbed and intimidated. Jewish people in particular feel threatened. Further action is necessary,” Ms Braverman wrote in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.
Her dramatic U-turn from criticism to praise for the police came days after she had accused Scotland Yard of “playing favourites” with its refusal to ban the rally.
The under-fire home secretary was repeatedly warned that she risked inflaming tensions and undermining the police with her comments, and on Saturday night, Met assistant commissioner Matt Twist said her comments had “increased community tensions” and contributed to the violence.
In a statement on Sunday night, Ms Braverman praised police for working “in the face of violence and aggression from protesters and counter-protesters in London yesterday”, adding that the fact that nine officers had been injured in the line of duty was an “outrage”.
Her comments came hours after Rishi Sunak was attacked for his “shocking” failure to thank officers for their work protecting the Cenotaph and ensuring that demonstrations could go ahead safely on Armistice Day.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was “really important” that the prime minister thanked officers who had missiles thrown at them in a series of violent clashes with demonstrators linked to the English Defence League (EDL) and other right-wing groups.
In statement issued after the protests, Mr Sunak condemned what he described as “violent, wholly unacceptable scenes from the EDL and associated groups”.
He also criticised “Hamas sympathisers” on the pro-Palestine march and said “the despicable actions of a minority of people undermine those who have chosen to express their views peacefully”. But he did not thank the police.
Asked about the matter on Sky News on Sunday, Ms Cooper said: “To be honest, I was just shocked that there wasn’t a word of thanks for the police in the statement.
“We saw police under attack, having missiles thrown at them, and having to deal with people trying to climb over fences [and] climbing onto walls to try and get to the Cenotaph.
“The police made sure that they didn’t, and we should thank them for that.”
Ms Cooper pointed to the incendiary article by the home secretary last week in which she claimed that officers “play favourites” in their approach to pro-Palestinian protesters.
The shadow home secretary said Ms Braverman’s comments were “appalling and unprecedented”.
“I have never seen any home secretary do what Suella Braverman did, and there is good reason for that – the events that we saw yesterday around the Armistice [Day commemorations].”
Asked about Mr Sunak’s failure to thank the police for protecting the Cenotaph, defence secretary Grant Shapps accused critics of “poring over every single word”.
“Of course the prime minister is grateful to the police; we all are ... it goes almost without saying, but I am sure he will say it in person,” Mr Shapps said.
Assistant Commissioner Twist said on Saturday that counter-demonstrators had arrived in the capital early and “seemed intent on confrontation and intent on violence”.
“There are a number of groups within this counter-protest who are split off and seem intent on seeking confrontation with the main Palestinian march, and the policing operation at the moment is being effective in preventing that happening,” he said.
The force condemned the violence faced by officers as they attempted to prevent disruption to a Remembrance event at the Cenotaph later in the afternoon.