Man arrested for ‘encouraging support for banned group’ at pro-Palestine protest in London

A man was arrested suspicion of a terrorism-related offence at a ‘Stop the Genocide’ protest in London.

The alleged offence was inviting support for a banned organisation, Westminster Police said.

Officers made the arrest on the Strand on Saturday afternoon – the man remains in custody.

Three other people were taken in by police at the march - one person was arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and two others were arrested on suspicion of causing harassment, alarm and distress.

Thousands of people descended on the capital for the 11th national march to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 32,000 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry which does not differentiate between militant and civilian deaths.

Protesters gathered at Russell Square at midday, before marching through the city to Trafalgar Square.

Holocaust survivor Stephen Kapos attended wearing a badge with the colours of the Palestinian flag.

He said: “We need to put pressure on our government and on the official opposition so they speak up, act, stop arming Israel and stop supporting genocide.”

Huge crowds gathered for the march (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)
Huge crowds gathered for the march (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

Crowds could be heard chanting: “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.”

At one point, the group met counter protesters who waved Israeli flags and held up photos of some of the 250 hostages held captive by Hamas.

Others displayed placards which read: “Hamas is terrorist.”

On Friday, the Metropolitan Police said hundreds of them would be on standby to manage the march.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Valentine said “swift and decisive action” will follow any criminal activity at the protest.

The force this week revealed that the costs of policing Gaza-related protests in London have reached over £32.2 million and required 35,000 officer shifts and more than 5,200 rest days to be cancelled.

Police separate protesters and counter protesters (AFP via Getty Images)
Police separate protesters and counter protesters (AFP via Getty Images)

Police and government officials have faced criticism for allowing marches which some say make Jews feel unwelcome in the city.

Robin Simcox, the Government’s counter-extremism tsar, warned that London’s streets had become a “no-go zone for Jews” during pro-Palestine demonstrations and a “permissive environment for radicalisation” was developing.

DAC Valentine, overseeing policing across the capital, said: “We expect this weekend in London to be extremely busy, with families and communities celebrating Easter and other religious festivals, as well as a mix of major sporting events and various protests taking place.

“We have an extensive policing plan in place to ensure these can take place safely, but I also want to be clear that we will not tolerate anyone who is intent on causing criminality, disorder or anti-social behaviour at any of the events.

“We have maintained a good dialogue with event holders, including protest organisers who are aware of our expectations in terms of how individuals and groups conduct themselves and how their stewards can help us.

“We continue to provide them with information about what kind of activity would constitute a criminal offence and have made it clear that we will take swift and decisive action where crimes occur.

“We also know that many people – particularly those from Jewish and Muslim communities – remain concerned about hate crime and are worried about their safety and we recognise the cumulative impact of frequent protests.

“Local officers continue to meet with community representatives and we will have presence at places of worship right across London through the weekend and beyond.

“While we have an extensive plan in place to police the various major events, we also have plenty of officers who will be on duty to provide a local policing presence across all of our boroughs.

“This is possible, in part, because we are once again being supported by colleagues from other forces across the UK and I’d like to thank all of the officers and staff who will be working this weekend to keep London safe.”