Police gear up for big Gaza protest

By Ian Dunt

Police are in advanced stages of preparation for what is expected to be a large London protest tomorrow against Israeli military action in Gaza.

The protest follows bitter recriminations last weekend over how thousands of demonstrators found themselves in a tunnel by Hyde Park Corner being baton charged by police.

“We want to have a peaceful demonstration but we recognise the situation created by the police last Saturday creates a dangerous precedent when they funnel protestors into a tunnel and then charge them with batons,” a Stop the War spokesman told politics.co.uk

“We can’t take the police’s word that they won’t do it again but we want to have a peaceful demonstration.”

Earlier this week, Respect MP George Galloway told politics.co.uk protestors were herded into the tunnel before police charged them, due to some demonstrators throwing plywood placards.

“I took my gloves off and walked forward with my hands up,” he said.

“I made for the oldest policeman, assuming he was more senior. But before I could say a single word he slammed my in the chest with his shield and held up his baton as if to hit me with it.”

The police account, reiterated yesterday, tells a different story.

“Following the rally in Trafalgar Square a spontaneous march of around 2,000 people made their way to the Israeli embassy,” a Met spokesperson said.

“What followed included some isolated incidents of disorder and some objects thrown at police, including fireworks.”

Stop the War and the police have held several meetings ahead of this weekend’s rally, the last of which will take place this morning.

Several complaints have been made about the policing of last Saturday’s demonstration.

This weekend’s demonstration will proceed from Speakers’ Corner to the Israeli embassy in west London. It compliments nightly demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy.

Local officers within Kensington and Chelsea are working to keep the local community informed about the potential disruption that further demonstrations may cause.

Commander Bob Broadhurst, who is in charge of public order policing for the Met, said: “The Met police is committed to, and will facilitate, lawful protest. We want to work with those demonstrators who care deeply about the ongoing situation to facilitate them expressing their view.

“However, our policing plan will cater for that minority who may come along not to support any cause, but to attempt to subvert legitimate protest for their own ends.”

The protests come as various aid organisations launched unprecedented condemnations against Israeli action in the Gaza strip.

There is still uncertainty over how quickly, if at all, the UN security council resolution agreed last night will end fighting on the ground.

This morning, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg launched a strongly worded attack on the Israelis for not signing up to the ceasefire

“What does the Israeli government think it will gain by flatly rejecting the international outcry for a ceasefire?” he asked.

“Any short-term military success in reducing the number of rocket attacks will be outweighed by increasing international isolation and increasing radicalisation in Gaza itself.”