Join us Donate

Palestine march organisers call press conference in Parliament to respond to attacks on the right to protest

Representatives of the coalition organising the national Palestine marches, along with MPs and civil liberties organisations, will hold a press conference tomorrow morning (Wednesday 28 February 2024) in Parliament to address the growing attacks on the right to protest.

It comes the day after the Home Affairs Select Committee made a number of recommendations that would further limit the right to peaceful protest, and a week after the disgraceful scenes in Parliament where the speaker abandoned normal protocol at the same time as House of Commons security prevented people lobbying their MPs.

Since then, the repressive atmosphere has escalated dramatically. Parliamentarians and many media commentators have portrayed the lobby of Parliament as an act akin to insurrection and have sought to associate peaceful protests with terrorism. A number of MPs have escalated calls for demonstrations outside the Palace of Westminster, MPs offices and council chambers to be banned.

Among those to address the press conference will be John McDonnell MP, Liberty’s Ruth Ehrlich, and representatives of the six organisations who together organise the Palestine marches.

The organisers are deeply concerned that the long tradition of freedom of protest and expression in this country is being threatened. A huge democratic gulf between the majority of the population on the one hand, which opposes Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza, and most politicians on the other, has produced an unprecedented series of massive demonstrations.

A spokesperson said: “Since October, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of London and their local areas calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, yet politicians have denounced these peace protestors as ‘hate marchers’ for expressing the majority view.

“Under intense political pressure from the government, political commentators, and a range of pro-Israel groups pushing to have the protests banned, the policing of the demonstrations has been increasingly aggressive and restrictive. It has been marked by unprecedented use of restriction orders, pressure on the organisers not to march, and violent arrests of protestors.”

The march organisers have produced a dossier outlining some examples of the unacceptable policing of the protests which they will be presenting to Assistant Police Commissioner Matt Twist at a meeting at Scotland Yard on Friday.

The spokesperson added: “Much of this demonisation of the Palestine marches has been openly Islamophobic, fuelled by the recent interventions of Lee Anderson and Suella Braverman amongst others. None of it bears any resemblance to reality. Our massive demonstrations have been diverse, family-friendly, well managed protests reflecting the wishes of the public on this issue.

“Even the Metropolitan Police have admitted that the marches and protests have been peaceful and orderly with fewer people arrested than at the average music festival. There have been no attacks on politicians or anybody else by pro-Palestine protestors, with the only violence that of pro-Israel, far-right groups encouraged by the demonising rhetoric of politicians.

“Perversely, the costs of wholly unnecessary levels of policing are now being used to justify a rolling back of democratic rights.

“Keeping protestors away from decision making centres is an attempt to insulate politicians from public opinion. As such, it is an attack on democracy not a defence of it.”