By Dominic Casciani, Sean Seddon & Holly Wallis

BBC News

The Metropolitan Police says its officers face a challenging situation in London, as a large Pro-Palestinian demonstration coincides with Armistice Day.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to take part in the march later, to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Police say there is a risk of clashes with far-right groups, and have set up an exclusion zone around the Cenotaph.

Rishi Sunak has called the timing of the march “disrespectful”.

The prime minister also urged those taking part to do so calmly and with regard for those attending services to commemorate the end of World War One.

“It is because of those who fought for this country and for the freedom we cherish that those who wish to protest can do so, but they must do so respectfully and peacefully,” Mr Sunak said.

“Remembrance weekend is sacred for us all and should be a moment of unity, of our shared British values and of solemn reflection.”

The Met expects Saturday’s demonstration to be the largest since weekly pro-Palestinian marches began in early October, and it is deploying nearly 2,000 officers across central London.

Police have warned the use of force is “likely”, amid concerns around counter-marches by far-right groups.

Unlike pro-Palestinian protesters, they will be allowed into Whitehall, with the plan centred on keeping the two groups apart.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has organised the march, has repeatedly stressed their route does not go past the Cenotaph, and has rejected appeals by the Met and politicians to postpone.

Demonstrators are set to gather at Hyde Park around noon, with the protest moving from there to the US embassy in Vauxhall, and ending at 16:00 GMT.

The officer in charge of policing Saturday’s protest, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, said the Met’s job was to police “without fear or favour”, balancing the rights of all.

He added it would be a “very difficult weekend” but the focus of officers was “to ensure that people are kept safe”.

Planned route of march

Other security measures announced by the Met include an exclusion zone using metal barriers around Whitehall and Parliament, and the US and Israeli embassies, as well as a 24-hour police guard at the Cenotaph, the 103-year-old permanent war memorial on Whitehall.

There are also plans to prevent a “convoys of cars” carrying pro-Palestinian protesters, which is expected to arrive from elsewhere in the UK, reaching Jewish communities. A dispersal zone covers Trafalgar Square, and much of Soho and north Westminster to prevent impromptu gatherings.

No major protest is scheduled to take place on Remembrance Sunday, although the policing operation will continue with some 1,375 officers deployed amid commemoration events in the capital.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said earlier this week the legal threshold which would allow him to ask the Home Office for permission to ban the march had not been met. He also stressed there are no powers in UK law to ban a static demonstration.

The Met said it had made 188 hate crime arrests since the conflict between Hamas and Israel erupted on 7 October.

A majority of the arrests were for suspected antisemitic offences.

Pro-Palestinian protesters in LondonIMAGE SOURCE,EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Image caption,

A previous pro-Palestinian protest in London

She claimed aggressive right-wing protesters were “rightly met with a stern response”, while “pro-Palestinian mobs” were “largely ignored” – accusing the force of applying “double standards”.

It later emerged she had defied a Downing Street request to tone the article down, including – according to the Times – a comparison between pro-Palestinian demonstrations and marches in Northern Ireland.

Critics of Mrs Braverman say she has undermined the police and potentially broken the ministerial code by not agreeing her remarks with No 10.

A source close to the home secretary said she had met with the Met commissioner on Friday, where she “emphasised her full backing for the police in what will be a complex and challenging situation and expressed confidence that any criminality will be dealt with robustly”.

Steve Hartson, national chair of the Police Federation which represents rank and file officers, said it was “unacceptable” for a home secretary to “publicly attempt to tamper with the operational independence of policing”.

Downing Street said the PM continued to have confidence in the home secretary, and was “still looking in to what happened with [Mrs Braverman’s] op-ed”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Armistice Day should serve as a reminder “that peace is possible”, even against a backdrop of bloodshed in Israel and Gaza.

Meanwhile, organisers of Saturday’s service at the Cenotaph say more than 1,000 people will attend or participate, ahead of the main event on Remembrance Sunday.

The Western Front Association said there will be a large number of school children, cadets, MoD and military representatives and wreath layers representing organisations including the Chinese Labour Corps and Canadian World War One nurses.

Lady Lucy French OBE will read wartime nurse Vera Brittain’s poem “Perhaps” at the Cenotaph.

The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which will be attended by the King and Queen and other members of the royal family, will take place later.

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