Metropolitan Police Face Criticism for Response to Protests at London’s Historic Memorials
In a recent and striking incident in London, pro-Palestine protesters were observed climbing the Royal Artillery Memorial, brandishing Palestine flags amidst cries of ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Ceasefire now’.
This dramatic scene unfolded near Hyde Park, with Metropolitan Police officers seen rushing to the Cenotaph, a war memorial, in an effort to control the situation. These events were widely shared online, capturing the attention of the public and raising questions about the adequacy of the police response.
The police faced a challenging scenario, managing a large pro-Palestinian demonstration opposite the Houses of Parliament. Although the main event concluded, a group persisted, moving towards Oxford Street, leading to the enforcement of a dispersal order covering Westminster. This order, effective from 7.50pm to 2am, was aimed at curtailing any antisocial behaviour.
A notable aspect of this incident was the lack of immediate arrests of protesters climbing the memorial. According to the police, there is no automatic right to arrest individuals for such actions. However, they emphasised that disrespecting a war memorial is widely viewed as unacceptable. The police expressed regret for not preventing access to the memorial sooner and clarified that while they couldn’t automatically arrest the protesters, they could intervene to discourage the behaviour.
The incident drew sharp criticism from Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, who emphasised the significance of the memorial as a tribute to fallen soldiers. He expressed strong disapproval of the way the protesters treated the memorial.