The Tories are pushing for a crackdown on pro-Palestinian protests this Saturday that clash with Armistice Day. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Stop the War and others have called another national demonstration in London, which Rishi Sunak has branded “provocative and disrespectful”.
On Monday the police asked the organisers to postpone the national demonstration and rein it back to a static rally. But they rightly refused and encouraged people to build the march. Further repressive moves were possible later in the week.
Sunak wrote to Met chief Mark Rowley last Friday to remind him that the Met has “the powers necessary” to ensure protests didn’t “disrupt or disturb” Armistice Day plans. Home secretary Suella Braverman added that anyone who damaged the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall should be jailed “faster than their feet can hit the ground”.
She previously slurred the pro-Palestine protest a “hate march”. It’s Braverman who is the expert in hate against refugees. Right wingers are working themselves up to use remembrance events as away to hold back protests. The Sun newspaper’s front page on Monday read, “Show some respect” calling for protests to be cancelled.
Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden also expressed “grave concerns” over the planned demonstration. He disgracefully criticised Black Lives Matter activists for failing to speak out about antisemitism after Hamas attacks in Israel. And defence secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter that “any disruption of Remembrance weekend would be completely unacceptable”.
Ben Jamal, director of PSC, said the Tories are “encouraging the calls from far right activists and commentators inciting action on the streets to stop the protests taking place”. This comes as former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson called for people to defend the Cenotaph on Saturday.
Lindsey German, convenor of Stop the War said, “Apparently, it is okay for London to host nine football matches, the Lord Mayor’s Show and myriad other events on 11 November, but not a march calling for a ceasefire on the day which marks the armistice—or ceasefire—at the end of the First World War.
“And there is never any fuss about the fascist National Front marching past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, as it will do again this week.” The Met will also look to target Just Stop Oil protests happening on Saturday, with more repression being ramped up against their activists. Braverman has already called for people holding the Palestinian flag or chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” to be arrested.
But threats against demonstrators can be held off by a large and determined mass movement. While some arrests were made on last Saturday’s day of action in London, thousands of Palestine flags still flew. The Tories’ attempt to whip up hatred should be met by pouring bigger numbers onto the streets.
Remember the real victims
What’s Remembrance Sunday really about? It’s an opportunity used by the ruling class to celebrate the bloody history of imperialist slaughter that Britain’s steeped in. The First World War plunged the world into an abyss of barbarism, industrialised killing and destruction.
Up to 23 million people were killed by imperialist war with as many as 40 million injured. The result was a tidal wave of working class revolt against world rulers. But poppies and remembrance rituals were the official response to popular anti-war bitterness.
Britain’s enemies were demonised as militarists and baby-killers. The British state is happy to mourn the dead and glorify their “necessary sacrifice”. The war was terrible, the argument goes, but the price was worth paying. It was worth it only for those at the top.
The Tories’ fake concern for the dead of previous war is to deflect from the truth behind Israel’s killing machine. Its aim is to push collective amnesia around the blood soaked history of imperialism, including Britain’s role in creating Israel. Stand in solidarity with Palestinians this weekend. Their resistance is a much prouder history to remember.