29 arrests and police injured after thousands gather in support of Palestine

Four police officers were injured and 29 people were arrested after thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

They were arrested for inciting racial hatred, other racially motivated crimes, violence and assaulting a police officer, the Metropolitan Police said.

Demonstrators climbed on top of the square’s famous fountains as the mostly peaceful group waved flags and banners on Saturday afternoon.

But the force said some demonstrators had launched fireworks into crowds and towards police, leaving four officers injured.

There were scuffles with police as the evening went on, and smaller groups of protesters began moving away from the square.

More than 1,300 officers were on duty in the area, four of whom were injured, the force said.

At least one protester was seen carrying a banner which read “Let’s keep the world clean” with a picture of an Israeli flag being thrown into a bin.

Israel-Hamas conflict
An anti-Israeli sign is held up at a rally in Trafalgar Square (George Lithgow/PA)

A similar banner displayed at a protest in Warsaw was condemned by the Israeli ambassador to Poland as “blatant antisemitism”.

Other protesters chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously branded the slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel.

However, pro-Palestinian protesters have contested this definition.

Effigies of dead babies were left on the ground in Trafalgar Square, next to pictures of children and candles.

The Met issued a dispersal order for an area around the square which will remain in force until 1am.

An order was also issued giving officers the power to require someone to remove any item being used to conceal their identity, the force said.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and comedian Alexei Sayle were among those who addressed the crowd on a stage set up in the square.

Other speakers led chants of “free, free Palestine” and were cheered by the large crowd which filled the famous square in central London.

Police said “retrospective facial recognition” had been used to identify a 24-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence after he was filmed giving a speech.

Nine people were arrested for public order offences, including two that were racially aggravated, and three others for assaulting a police officer.

Two further people were arrested on suspicion of breaching section 12 of the Terrorism Act after they were seen displaying a banner appearing to support a proscribed organisation.

Protesters also gathered for a sit-in at Charing Cross station, which is near to Trafalgar Square in central London, on Saturday evening.

Earlier in the day, 350 people staged a sit-in protest which shut down Oxford Circus.

The demonstration stopped traffic during the shopping district’s busiest hours, following similar disruptive protests at major stations.

It comes after a week of similar disruptive actions at major UK transport hubs.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Effigies of dead babies laid out at a rally in Trafalgar Square (Victoria Jones/PA)

Met Police Commander Karen Findlay said: “The vast majority of people demonstrated peacefully during an extremely busy day in central London, with protests in a number of locations requiring a policing presence.

“It is disappointing that various splinter groups were again responsible for behaviour which has no place in London and we are determined to deal with this robustly. Fireworks were directed towards officers and four officers were injured.

“Today, we dealt with breakaway groups from the main protest quickly. Officers intervened to prevent further disruption, using the full range of powers at their disposal. This effective intervention ensured Londoners were able to go about their business.”