LONDON: Amnesty International has urged police in London not to ban a pro-Palestine march in the capital this weekend.
The human rights organization warned that “political pressure” is being brought by government ministers to prevent the protest taking place, as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley considers whether to take action to stop marchers on Nov. 11, the anniversary of the end of the First World War.
The warning came amid fears that far-right agitators could seek to disrupt the march and incite clashes if it takes place, as the UK prepares for Armistice Day. The Met has already asked organizers to voluntarily cancel the march.
Amnesty said descriptions of previous marches by Home Secretary Suella Braverman as “hate marches” were “a dystopian distortion of the truth.”
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told the BBC that the march should not take place, but added: “It’s also fair and reasonable to point out that there will be those on these marches who will not be consumed by illegality, are not calling for jihad and so on.”
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said banning the march is an operational matter for the police.
“We should support the police in their assessments and not this inflammatory rhetoric which is trying to provoke people and trying to provoke divisions,” she told the BBC.
“Frankly, I think Suella Braverman is making it harder for the police to do their job rather than pulling communities together at a time of remembrance.”
The Met has said it believes that “the risk of violence and disorder linked to breakaway groups is growing.”
Protests have been mostly peaceful so far, and 70,000 people are expected to attend the latest march, which will start at Marble Arch in the city center and end at the US Embassy the day before Remembrance Sunday.
Fears are rising that the English Defence League and other far-right groups could target the march, after EDL founder Tommy Robinson called for “a mass of men who are willing to stand up for their country” to make themselves available. He posted on X: “Saturday 11/11/11 London, your country needs you.”
Jonathan Hall, the UK’s independent reviewer of terror laws, said “an extreme right-wing terrorist backlash” could happen if the march goes ahead, and it could be used as a “recruiting” tool by extremist Muslim groups.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told the Daily Mail that he has “grave concerns” about the march.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously called plans for pro-Palestine demonstrations this weekend “disrespectful.”
The march’s organizers, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, posted on X on Tuesday: “We will protest on Saturday as we have done ever since Israel’s savage assault on Gaza began, killing more than 10,000 people, including nearly 5,000 children.
“Our marches are peaceful, well-organised and a fundamental democratic right. See you on Saturday.”