Tens of thousands of people have marched through cities across the UK calling for a free Palestine as tensions grew over an impending Israeli ground offensive in Gaza.Protesters gathered in Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and London, carrying flags and flares and calling for world leaders to condemn the actions of the Israeli army.
Fifteen people were arrested at the protest in central London, after warnings from police that action would be taken against anyone showing support for Hamas or deviating from the agreed route.One man, who allegedly launched a wooden stick at a passing Met van next to Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, was chased by officers and arrested after reportedly jumping into a fountain at the landmark.
Nearby protesters then shoved police and threw objects, including bottles, at them, the PA agency reported.The Metropolitan Police said on Saturday evening that there had been “small pockets of disorder and unacceptable criminality towards our officers in Trafalgar Square” and that eight of the arrests related to suspected assaults on emergency workers, as well as allegedly setting off fireworks in public places. There were also some suspected public order offences.
Nine officers were treated for minor injuries and a dispersal order was imposed on an area of central London that included Trafalgar Square, Green Park and St James’s Park to tackle “incidents of antisocial behaviour, crime and disorder”, the Met said. It added that the area around Trafalgar Square was “now clear”.
In Edinburgh, thousands staged an impromptu march to the Scottish parliament, chanting “Free, free Palestine!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as they made their way up The Mound and along Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.
Upon arrival, some activists “took the knee” and held a minute’s silence in solidarity with the Palestinian people.Demonstrations were also held in Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow, where Bath Street had to be closed due to the number of people attending. Shaaista Bhutta and Muzaffar Yousaf, the parents of the Scottish first minister, Humza Yousaf, are understood to be among those who attended the rally.
In London, a pronounced police presence reflected sensitivities surrounding the march, and minutes before protesters set off, Scotland Yard announced that its counter-terrorism police were looking into more than 50 cases of “potential terrorist content online” in the period since Hamas launched its attack against Israel last Saturday.