Union chief Mick Lynch vows to join pro-Palestine march on Remembrance Day despite police warning

Pro-Palestine protesters attend a demonstration in Trafalgar Square to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on 4th November 2023 in London, United Kingdom. Mass Palestinian solidarity rallies have been held throughout the UK for a fourth consecutive weekend to call for an end to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Pro-Palestine protesters attend a demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London. (Getty Images)

Mick Lynch is one of three union leaders representing more than half a million people who have said they will join the pro-Palestine march in London on Armistice Day.

The organisers of the demonstration have refused to postpone it despite being urged to do so by the Metropolitan Police.

Saturday's protest is the latest of a serious of high-profile demonstrations.

They followed an escalation of violence in the Middle East, which was sparked when Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 people in Israel in a wave of attacks on 7 October and kidnapped more than 200 others.

The Hamas-run health ministry says Israeli bombings have killed more than 10,300 people in the Gaza Strip in the weeks that have followed, including more than 4,100 children.

The Metropolitan Police said previously it was considering requesting a ban on the march this Remembrance Day weekend. Any proposed ban would need to be signed off by the home secretary.

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The march's organisers have claimed their protest on Saturday will avoid the Cenotaph in Whitehall, but prime minister Rishi Sunak said there is a risk that war memorials could be "desecrated", branding the march "provocative and disrespectful".

In a video posted on social media by organisers of the march on Tuesday, Mick Lynch, secretary-general of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), pledged to attend the march.

On Monday evening, the Metropolitan Police urged organisers to postpone the march.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: "Our message to organisers is clear: Please, we ask you to urgently reconsider. It is not appropriate to hold any protests in London this weekend."

What is happening on Remembrance weekend?

Armistice Day on 11 November marks the date when the First World War ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which is usually attended by members of the Royal Family, will take place on Saturday, with a two-minute silence observed at 11am.

Remembrance Sunday will take place the following day with events at the Cenotaph in Westminster.

Why is the pro-Palestine march controversial?

Organisers of the planned demonstration on Saturday have pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph is located.

The planned route would take hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from Hyde Park – about a mile from the Cenotaph – to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the River Thames.

Sunak said: "To plan protests on Armistice Day is provocative and disrespectful, and there is a clear and present risk that the Cenotaph and other war memorials could be desecrated, something that would be an affront to the British public and the values we stand for."

London, UK. 7 November 2023.   A view of the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall. There are growing fear  g that members of the far-Right will clash with pro-palestine  protesters during a march planned to take place on Armistice Day  when a two minute silence is held for the fallen soldiers as thousdans of protesters are expected to descend on Lonfon  to protest on Israel's continue attacks on Gaza. Credit: amer ghazzal/Alamy Live News
The Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London, where planned events will take place on Remembrance Sunday. (Alamy)

But the organisers, including campaign groups the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain, said in a joint statement that they still plan to march.

“We recognise the political pressure being placed on the police by the government and right-wing political groups," they said. “However, we emphasise that they had and have a responsibility to withstand that pressure and act to uphold democratic freedoms.

“We will be holding a protest on Saturday and we invite all people of conscience to join us in peacefully marching as planned.”

Watch: Rishi Sunak backs police to clamp down on Armistice Day protests