‘From the river to the sea’ projected onto Parliament as police stood by, says MP

Protesters beamed the slogan onto Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower
Protesters beamed the slogan onto Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower - @BellaWallerstei

Police stood by as the slogan “From the river to the sea” was projected onto Parliament on Wednesday night, a senior Jewish MP has said.

Andrew Percy, a Tory backbencher, raised concerns after pro-Palestinian protesters beamed the slogan onto the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said the projection of “genocidal language” onto Parliament was “a wake-up call for Britain”.

Police officers were present in large numbers at the demonstration in Parliament Square but decided not to take action. The Metropolitan Police later said it could not intervene because broadcasting a slogan onto Parliament was not a criminal offence unless the message broke the law, which officers did not believe was the case.

Mr Percy told The Telegraph: “It’s a weak and pathetic response, which we’ve come to expect from the Met – a force that has at times appeared to act more like a PR arm for the protesters than a law enforcement agency.

“There’s no doubt that chant is genocidal. It denies Jews self-determination in their homeland, calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and, more importantly, it is chanted by people and promoted by groups who are in many cases openly anti-Semitic and who call for Jews to be wiped out.

“It should be pursued because it is already a crime to incite racial or religious hatred, and I am sorry that the police are again choosing not to act on a racist genocidal chant.”

A Met Police spokesman said: “This is a chant that has been frequently heard at pro-Palestinian demonstrations for many years, and we are very aware of the strength of feeling in relation to it.

“While there are scenarios where chanting or using these words could be unlawful depending on the specific location or context, its use in a wider public protest setting, such as last night, is not a criminal offence.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square on Wednesday night
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square on Wednesday night - Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu via Getty Images

Other messages projected onto Parliament by protesters including “Stop bombing Gaza,” “Ceasefire now” and “Stop war now”. The rally was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has been behind regular marches.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said the weekly pro-Palestinian marches had “made our capital city a no-go zone for Jews, and repel law-abiding Londoners”.

It said the intimidation of MPs meant “our democracy itself is under attack, and those responsible for safeguarding it are in dereliction of their duty”.

One former Cabinet minister warned that the Met was “increasingly losing the trust of the public they are there to serve and protect”, saying: “We are witnessing a subversion of our democracy through the projection of offensive slogans upon our Parliament and the way in which democratically elected members are now being threatened and subject to constant abuse.

“The lack of police action only seeks to normalise public hate and offensive acts and behaviour. They are making a mockery of the very laws and the powers they have which protect our democratic values and ability to live our lives through the rule of law.”

It came after Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, sparked angry scenes on Wednesday by breaking with convention to select a Labour amendment on Gaza.

He said he had made the decision after being warned of threats to the safety of Labour MPs if they were not allowed to vote on their party’s proposal.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Percy had spoken out during a Commons debate that saw many MPs express fears over their safety and warn that threats from “Islamist extremists” were stifling democracy.

He told the Commons of a rising tide of anti-Semitism, saying: “For months I’ve been standing up here talking about the people on our streets demanding ‘death to Jews’, demanding Jihad, demanding intifadas as the police stand by and allow that to happen.”

Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Leader, told Mr Percy that the authorities were looking into who projected the message and that prosecutions would be brought.

Mr Percy was not the only Tory MP to criticise the Met’s handling of months of pro-Palestinian protests in London, with Matthew Offord, the MP for Hendon, north London, saying: “Many of my constituents have faced a level of anti-Semitism that we’ve never seen before.

“My constituents remind me not only of the calls for jihad on the streets of London and the Metropolitan Police refusing to do anything about it. They also remind me about men driving through north London threatening to rape Jewish women and the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] then declining to prosecute them.”

Robert Jenrick, a former immigration minister, added: “We have allowed our streets to be dominated by Islamist extremists, and British Jews and others to be too intimidated to walk through central London week after week.

“Now we’re allowing Islamist extremists to intimidate British Members of Parliament. This is wrong. It has to stop.”

Ms Mordaunt said: “British Jews are suffering a grotesque level of hatred and abuse which quite frankly shames our country.

“There cannot be any tolerance or quarter given to those individuals that threaten and try to prevent MPs conducting their business and honouring the obligations they have to their constituents to use their judgment when they come into this place.”

The debate was triggered after chaotic scenes in the Commons on Wednesday night, which were sparked by the SNP’s bid to force a vote on a Gaza ceasefire.

Sir Lindsay went against the advice of his clerks by selecting a Labour amendment to the SNP’s motion, angering both the Scottish party and the Tories.

He made his decision following intense lobbying from Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, who is said to have told him about the threats Labour MPs were facing. But it sparked a furious response, with SNP and Tory MPs walking out of the chamber en masse at one point in protest.

The Speaker apologised to MPs and denied suggestions he had made the decision to spare Sir Keir the embarrassment of a damaging rebellion, insisting he had been motivated by the safety of Labour MPs.