South Londoners joined crowds of protesters outside the Houses of Parliament last night calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, despite growing fears of a police crackdown on peaceful protest.
Inside Parliament, ministers voted on the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, amid the rising casualties of the Israel-Hamas war with the health ministry in Gaza estimating 11,240 people have now been killed including 4,630 children since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 that brutally killed around 1,200 people.
A woman with a speakerphone broke the news to the crowds that the call for a ceasefire had been defeated and eight MP’s had either quit Sir Keir Starmer’s frontbench or been sacked – after breaching the party whip to back the amendment.
A 65-year-old art teacher from King’s College, who lives in Rotherhithe, has been demonstrating in Westminster for the past five weeks – including at a protest in Catford, Lewisham, on November 6.
The man, who asked not to be named, said: “It pains me to say but we haven’t stopped one bomb in those five weeks.
“I’m appalled by our politicians for giving the green light for what many of us see as genocide.
“We were told lies about why we went into Iraq in 2003, and now we’re told lies about why we will not stop the bombing of Gaza.
“But I will carry on demonstrating.”
Following the announcement the crowd erupted into chants of “Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer blood on your hands” and “shame on you”, before organisers told the crowd to disperse within five minutes and “get home safely”.
A dispersal order had been enforced by the Met across certain parts of Westminster from 7.50pm until 2am.
The crowds broke up but an offshoot took to the railings outside parliament to continue their chants.
Then, they turned and began to march out of Parliament square. Tension rose amongst police who shoved each other into line, sprinting to get ahead of the moving crowd.
The march took to Whitehall, heading to Trafalgar Square, tailed by lines of police.
There was a peaceful but tense atmosphere between police and protestors throughout the evening, following weeks of arrests.
Ahead of the Armistice day demonstration for Gaza last Saturday, Suella Braverman – who has since been sacked as Home Secretary – called on the Met to ban the protest, describing them as “hate marches” that were “polluted by violence and antisemitism”.
Adrian, 37, from South Lewisham, did not want to give his last name said: “It’s vibrant and there’s energy and passion, there has been no violence today.
“It’s been a peaceful protest and that’s what our government has outlawed, with new laws against protesting.
“Unless you’re willing to be arrested and go to prison it’s effectively been banned.
“I have a little girl at home, I can’t afford to be arrested but I can’t sit at home and watch this happen – we’re seeing a genocide in slow motion.”
This comes as the government and police crack down on peaceful protest, with hundreds of arrests in the past few weeks at pro-Palestine marches and Just Stop Oil demonstrations, including arrests made using new laws that make “slow marching” and face coverings illegal.
The Met said the group dispersed around 10pm, one arrest was made for possession of an offensive weapon.
The Met and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development office have been approached for comment.
Pictured top: Protesters march under Christmas lights through central London waving flags (Picture: Claudia Lee)
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