Stay off war memorials or face arrest - police warning to pro-Palestinian protesters

 Police in London and protesters scaling the Royal Artillery Memorial
Tom Fredericks

By Tom Fredericks

Published: 17/11/2023

- 17:31

Police were criticised for failing to arrest demonstrators who climbed the Royal Artillery Memorial

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been warned to stay off war memorials or face arrest.

The threat comes after police were criticised for failing to arrest demonstrators who climbed the Royal Artillery Memorial in Central London earlier this week.

The new Home Secretary James Cleverly has said the law could be changed to give officers new powers after Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said climbing on memorials wasn’t a criminal offence.

In previous weeks the focus has been on large pro-Palestinian demonstrations focused on Westminster and surrounding areas, but this weekend will see smaller protests in a number of London boroughs and UK towns and cities.

Pro-Palestine protestersPro-Palestine protesters have taken to the streets of London PA

Met Commander Karen Findlay, who is leading the policing operation across the Capital, said:

“Protesters intent on climbing over memorials and other monuments should keep in mind that they weren’t designed for this purpose, making them prone to damage which will likely constitute a criminal offence.

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“There is clear legislation in place to deal with damage of any sort, even if it is minimal or was caused recklessly and not intentionally.”

The Met says it will be deploying extra resources to areas with significant Jewish or Muslim communities who “continue to experience increased uncertainty and fear in light of events in the Middle East”.

Commander Findlay added: “Whilst there is no single large central protest event on Saturday, our policing priorities remain the same across the local events that are due to take place.

“We are here to ensure that people can exercise their right to protest but to make sure that is done lawfully, and that unreasonable disruption to the lives of other Londoners is kept to a minimum.

“Our officers will intervene swiftly where they see offences taking place. In particular I want to reiterate that there is no place for hate in London. Hate crime will not be tolerated.

“They will be looking to take positive action, including arrests, as soon as disrespectful behaviour becomes disorderly behaviour of the sort covered by a number of public order offences. They will also intervene where necessary to prevent a breach of the peace.

As well as the planned pro-Palestinian demonstrations, another challenge for the Met’s officers will come from Just Stop Oil activists, who will be holding a march on London’s South Bank.

The group is now in the third week of its latest campaign of action to disrupt the Capital.

The Met says that since the end of October, 562 JSO activists have been arrested and 296 have so far been charged.

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