Why is a pro-Palestine march happening on Saturday and why is it controversial?

Hundreds of thousands of protesters will head to central London on Saturday to call for a ceasefire after Israel’s response to deadly attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas last month.

– Where and when is it happening?

Protesters will officially gather at Hyde Park, about a mile from Whitehall at noon, before marching to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames.

The planned demonstration is set to end at 4pm.

Speeches will be made on a stage set up near the end of the march, with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, actors Maxine Peake and Juliet Stevenson, and Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestine mission to the UK, expected to take part.

(PA Graphics)

– Who is involved?

The coalition of groups behind the march are the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Stop the War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain, Palestinian Forum in Britain and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Trade unions, political groups such as the Socialist Worker and politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn say they will be attending.

– Why is it happening?

Stop the War has insisted that the focus of the march is on stopping the killing in Gaza.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign says the UK Government, through its “endorsement” of Israel, has been rendered “complicit” in the deaths of people in Gaza.

– How many protesters are expected?

Organisers predict half a million people will gather in the capital, with police also bracing for huge numbers.

Israel-Hamas conflict
A protester poses with a placard (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

They believe it could be the “biggest demonstration” over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

– Why are unions joining?

In a video posted on social media, 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.

Mr Lynch confirmed he will be speaking at the event for “peace in Palestine”.

Mr Wrack and Mr Kebede both called for a “ceasefire”.

– Why is the march controversial?

Previous rallies have split opinion because some protesters have chanted offensive slurs, clashed with police officers and carried images appearing to support extremist groups.

Israel-Hamas conflict
A large police presence is expected (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

However, Saturday’s march coincides with Armistice Day, when people across the UK mark the moment the guns fell silent in the First World War.

Rishi Sunak labelled the protest “provocative and disrespectful”.

– What Armistice events are happening over the weekend?

A national two-minute silence will occur at 11am.

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

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

Remembrance Sunday
Events will take place at the Cenotaph (Aaron Chown/PA)

– What are the concerns?

Breakaway groups from the main pro-Palestine march could look for trouble by disrupting Armistice events, while counter-demonstrations may add to policing difficulties.

The Met had urged march organisers to “urgently reconsider” the event because of a growing risk of violence, but they refused to call it off.

Mr Sunak held an emergency meeting with the force’s chief, Sir Mark Rowley, earlier in the week, saying he would hold the Scotland Yard boss “accountable” if there was trouble.

– What are organisers saying about this?

Protesters say they have no intention of marching near Whitehall to disrupt any events at the Cenotaph.

The official march is due to begin an hour after the silence.

– Why are counter-protests expected?

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson is among those who say men are “mobilising” to be in the capital.

Tommy Robinson court case
Tommy Robinson says groups are ‘mobilising’ (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The Democratic Football Lads Alliance posted on Facebook that demonstrators act as a “buffer” for those who wish to head to the Cenotaph to pay their respects on the day.

The group also says it will deter people from seeking to “desecrate and disrespect our monuments”.

It said in a statement: “Vets have reached out and asked for our support due to the threat from the far-left and pro-Palestinian supporters to disrupt the Remembrance Day parade.

“We are calling on all football lads up and down the country to join us in standing shoulder to shoulder with our veterans that fought for our freedom.”

– Why is this a problem?

There are concerns that some groups could clash with pro-Palestinian protesters.

– What are veterans’ groups doing?

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Johnny Mercer said he had urged former military personnel not to stage counter-demonstrations and stressed the route of the pro-Palestinian march is not due to go near the Cenotaph.

The Royal British Legion has said it respects the right to protest within the law, adding it would not comment on the subject matter of demonstrations.

– What has the Met said?

A significant policing operation is set to take place over the weekend, with more than 1,000 officers being drafted in from outside forces.

It will take a zero-tolerance approach to those who commit hate crime and criminal disruption.

– What can officers do?

Scotland Yard said it would use “all powers and tactics” to prevent disruption, including Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986, which allows the banning of a procession when there is a risk of serious disorder.

Officers will arrest protesters who show support for Hamas or any terrorist organisation, the Met has said.

Home Office raid in Coventry
Suella Braverman has described pro-Palestine demonstrations as ‘hate marches’ (Joe Giddens/PA)

– Why has Suella Braverman waded in?

The Home Secretary has been criticised for describing pro-Palestine demonstrations as hate marches, and accusing the police of favouring left-wing groups over right in an article in the Times.

She also characterised alleged reports that organisers of Saturday’s march were linked to Hamas as “disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster”.

– What was the reaction?

Some Conservative MPs were left frustrated and uneasy about the comments, with calls for the Prime Minister to sack her.

It is understood the article was submitted to Downing Street but did not get signed off as significant alterations were requested.

Senior officers and the head of the Crown Prosecution Service stressed the need for the police to be able to operate independently without political interference.

Sir Tom Winsor, former HM chief inspector of constabulary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “It’s unusual. It’s unprecedented. It’s contrary to the spirit of the ancient constitutional settlement with the police, I think it’s contrary to the letter of that constitutional settlement. And it is highly regrettable that it has been made.”

– What does Labour think?

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused Mrs Braverman of “encouraging extremists on all sides” and “attacking the police when she should be backing them”.

Ms Cooper said Remembrance weekend is an “important time for communities to come together” and “events must be respected”.