Suella Braverman accused of fuelling far-right violence near Cenotaph

Suella Braverman has been accused of fuelling far-right violence after at least 92 people opposing a pro-Palestine march in central London were arrested on Armistice Day.

Supporters of the activist Tommy Robinson and football hooligans broke through police lines in Whitehall, central London, just moments before the two-minute silence at 11am.

They had gathered in their hundreds after the home secretary branded pro-Palestinian demonstrators “hate marchers” and “Islamists” who were intending to use Armistice Day to dominate the streets of London.

Police said more than 300,000 pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered from noon near Hyde Park demanding a ceasefire in Gaza although march organisers put the number at about 800,000 with no reported arrests by 5pm. However, the Metropolitan police said they were investigating at least five allegations of hate crimes including antisemitic and racist chants and placards on the march.

Near Whitehall, several skirmishes broke out between a large group of far-right supporters and police from around 10am. The group was able to break through police lines before being dispersed by officers wearing riot gear.

A large group, who were chanting “You’re not English any more” at the police, were “kettled” around St Stephen’s Tavern, opposite Big Ben. Another group was dispersed by officers near Embankment station, and a third was confronted by officers in Chinatown.


Scotland Yard said that by 3pm 82 people had been arrested in Pimlico, central London, to prevent a breach of the peace.

“They’re part of a large group of counterprotesters we have been monitoring who have tried to reach the main protest march. We will continue to take action to avoid the disorder that would likely take place if that happened.”

Earlier, two people were arrested near Whitehall, one man on suspicion of possession of a knife and another for possession of a baton.

At least another 10 were arrested for other offences, a police spokesperson said later.

The Guardian witnessed a group of 10 masked people wearing Chelsea football club badges and chanting Islamophobic slogans and “English till I die” on Whitehall, just yards from the Cenotaph.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, blamed Braverman for the clashes.

He tweeted: “The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the home secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder.

“The Met have my full support to take action against anyone found spreading hate and breaking the law.”

Humza Yousaf, the first minister of Scotland, said the far right had been emboldened by Braverman and said: “She must resign.”

Nick Lowles, the chief executive of the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, said: “Over 2,000 far-right activists and football hooligans have descended on London today – fuelled by the extreme rhetoric of the home secretary.

“This violent group were able to quickly climb over police fencing and violently push through police lines showing the complete lack of preparation from the Met.

“These protests do not exist in a vacuum. We’ve seen the far right growing in numbers and confidence, aided by the radical right fringes of this government.”

Responding to the allegations, a Conservative source said the skirmishes proved Braverman was right to raise concerns about demonstrations held on Armistice Day.

“Suella Braverman wanted the police to have the right to instantly arrest any far-right protester disrupting Armistice Day. Over the last few days, there has been a huge row in which her view that these protests risked leading to serious disorder was derided,” the source said.

The Met police posted on X, formerly Twitter: “While the two minutes’ silence was marked respectfully and without incident on Whitehall, officers have faced aggression from counter-protesters who are in the area in significant numbers.”

The force said it would “use all the powers and tactics available to us to prevent” the counter-protesters from confronting the pro-Palestine march.

Some of the pro-Palestine marchers were heard chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a controversial slogan that Braverman and senior Labour figures have warned is offensive and in effect calls for the destruction of Israel.

Police said in statements released on X that they were “actively looking” for a number of people carrying antisemitic placards, including one which read: “Welcome to Gaza twinned with Auschwitz.”

Another person carried a sign depicting the antisemitic trope of an Israeli snake wrapped around the globe, the police said, while two men who appeared to be wearing Hamas headbands were also being sought.

Police also wish to contact a woman carrying a placard depicting Braverman and Rishi Sunak as coconuts, which is a racist insult, and want to interview a number of other people involved in an allegedly antisemitic chant.

The majority of protesters were chanting “Ceasefire now’” and “We are all Palestinians”. Other chants included “In our thousands, in our millions we are all Palestinians”, and people were shouting “Rishi Sunak’s a wasteman” and “Rishi Sunak, shame on you. Keir Starmer, shame on you.”

People of all ages and backgrounds were taking part in the protest. Parents could be seen with children and babies in buggies, and there were many older people.

Rachel Solnick, 37, a PhD student on the march, said: “I feel really appalled by how some of the framing around liberation for Palestine has been as if there’s an opposition, or some kind of binary between Jewish safety and Palestinian safety. I absolutely disagree with that framing.

“I think that loads of us who have Jewish ancestry feel really strongly that what is taking place in Palestine is ethnic cleansing and we don’t want it to happen in our names. It feels so important to gather here in numbers, as Jews and as members of the British public in general, to counter that narrative.”

Another, Matt Storey, said: “I’m so frustrated with our government not taking a firm line on it or making an effort to stop it. It’s despicable. My children are part-Palestinian so I’m also here for them. There are lots of children dying over there.”

Alice Johnston, 26, who works in project management, said: “I’m here to show my support for the Palestinian people and what they’re going through and to show solidarity. The atmosphere here is amazing and peaceful, all we’re calling for is for the genocide to stop.

“Every day we’re seeing harrowing images of children and Palestinians in utterly dire circumstances. It’s important that I’m here to show my support.

“The fact that these have been branded as hate marches couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s ridiculous.”

The march was planned to end at the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the River Thames.

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for calm, with a veiled swipe at Braverman for inflaming tensions in the days before the protests.

Cooper tweeted: “Some disgraceful scenes this morning. We urge everyone to respect the police & each other & exercise calm.

“Everyone must reflect on the impact of their words & actions. It is the responsibility of all of us to bring people together over this weekend not divide and inflame.”

Robinson, the English Defence League founder, was among a number of far-right activists who used Braverman’s words to call for supporters to gather for a counterprotest to “defend” the Cenotaph, even though the main rally route avoided the Whitehall area.