Khan ‘powerless’ to prevent pro-Palestine protest on Armistice Day

Protestors calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine are set to march past the Cenotaph on 11th November, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat (left) and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (right)
Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat (left) and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (right)

Sadiq Khan has hit back at suggestions from a government minister that he has the power to prevent a pro-Palestinian protest from taking place in central London on Armistice Day.

Security minister and former soldier Tom Tugendhat said such a march would not be “appropriate”, saying he had written to the Mayor of London, Westminster City Council and Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley about it.

But Khan accused the minister of “playing politics” as the mayor, he stressed, did not have the power to stop the protest.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas are planning to take to the streets of London on Armistice Day on Saturday, 11th November.

There are fears the march could disrupt the two-minute silence commemorating the war dead, and the daytime and evening Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, with the latter performance usually attended by members of the royal family.

“For me and fellow veterans, 11th November is not just another day, it’s not just even a day of remembrance, it’s a day of grief,” Tugendhat told Times Radio this morning (Friday 3rd).

“For many of us it’s a day when we remember friends who are not standing with us anymore, some who fell at the time and some who sadly have taken their own life since.

“It can be a very painful moment and I think that is why this is not an appropriate time, this is not an appropriate venue for protest.

“It’s a time for us to come together and to remember all those who served our country with courage and distinction in many conflicts around the world and gave us the freedoms and liberties that we are lucky enough to enjoy today.”

Tugendhat later told BBC Breakfast: “I do not think that a protest on remembrance weekend, next to the Cenotaph, is appropriate.”

The minister is understood not to be opposed to a march in another part of the capital on 11th November, but does not believe it should be near the Cenotaph and that those who wish to pay their respects should be able to do so unhindered.

Responding, Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “This is a textbook example of a senior politician playing party politics and posturing, with a serious issue. He must know [the mayor cannot prevent the protest].

“If he does know, it shows he’s playing party politics. If he doesn’t know, it brings into question his competence.”

Asked for his own view on whether it would be appropriate for the protest to go ahead on Armistice Day, regardless of his lack of power to prevent it, the mayor called on people thinking of protesting to “understand the importance of that weekend to our entire country”.

He said those protesting were “in danger of driving people away” from the very cause they are championing by choosing to protest on Armistice Day.

The law is understood to say that the Met Police commissioner, with the consent of the home secretary, can ban a march if he reasonably believes that restrictions on it would not be sufficient to prevent serious public disorder.

The Met Police has said officers will be deployed across the capital that weekend as part of a “significant policing and security operation”.

It said protest groups have not indicated plans to march on Remembrance Sunday on 12th November, but a significant demonstration is expected on the Saturday.

Organisers of the demo have pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph war memorial – the focus of national remembrance events – is located.

A Met spokesperson said: “This is a weekend with huge national significance.

“We will use all the powers available to us to ensure anyone intent on disrupting it will not succeed.”

It added: “We’re absolutely committed to ensuring the safety and security of anyone attending commemorative events.”

In a statement later on Friday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that to plan protests on Armistice Day “is provocative and disrespectful”.

He added: “I have asked the home secretary to support the Met Police in doing everything necessary to protect the sanctity of Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.”

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