Organizer of London Armistice Day event expresses support for pro-Palestine march
LONDON: The organizer of London’s Armistice Day event at the Cenotaph has expressed support for Saturday’s pro-Palestine march, saying that his charity “believes in free speech.”
The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that the march will proceed — despite fears that it could spark counter-protests by right-wing extremists — because the “evidence threshold” to prohibit it has not been met.
Richard Hughes, legal trustee of the Western Front Association, told The Guardian: “I think a lot of people are trying to whip this up.”
Hughes, who is in charge of organizing the annual commemoration for First World War casualties, added: “The police are not going to let anyone near the Cenotaph. We are a democratic organization that commemorates those who fought for democracy, so free speech is important.”
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk have both said that they do not believe Saturday’s march should go ahead due to a “risk” of remembrance events being disrupted or the Cenotaph being defaced.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday that he accepted the march would take place, but that it was “disrespectful” and “offends our heartfelt gratitude to those who gave so much so that we may live in freedom and peace today,” The Guardian reported.
Hughes said that while he recognized that the pro-Palestine march would put additional strain on police resources and that opinions among Western Front Association members would differ, “I would hope that the two events could coexist without touching … If I was at one of those demonstrations I might say, ‘They can do their stuff and we will do our stuff.’
“Some of the older members might think that it is not appropriate (to protest on Armistice Day) but it is very hard to be blind to what is going on in the Middle East.”
Hughes said that security around the commemoration had increased in recent years, but he trusted the Met police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, to prevent any major disruption on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Winston Churchill’s grandson, Lord Soames, said that the pro-Palestinian march on Armistice Day must be allowed to go ahead.
“A lot of people died during the war to assert freedom,” the former armed forces minister told LBC.
He added: “It’s nowhere near the Cenotaph. It’s in the afternoon and most of these people, 90 percent of those people, are not there to make trouble.
“They’re there to express a deeply held view. And I think it must be allowed to go ahead, and I think it would be a great mistake to play politics with it.”
Lord Soames expressed his disagreement with Suella Braverman’s description of pro-Palestine protests as “hate marches,” adding: “The previous demonstrations have been pretty good, really. I mean, there’s been a few arrests, but for the scale of people…
“I think they are not hate marches, and why would you say such a thing? I don’t get it … it is polarizing, and we live in a country that needs all the non-polarization it can get.”