A Cabinet minister has said there will be “ongoing discussions” after police gave the go-ahead for a demonstration calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to take place on Armistice Day.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on Tuesday resisted pressure heaped on the force by politicians including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to try to block a pro-Palestinian gathering in London on Saturday.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay, who insisted the rally will be “provocative”, told Sky News: “I think there’ll be ongoing discussions on this.
“There is a legal threshold and the Commissioner is of the view that that legal threshold has not been met.
“Obviously, the Home Office and colleagues will discuss that over the course of the day.”
His Cabinet colleague Lucy Frazer, who is Jewish, called for the Met to keep the “very provocative” march “under review”.
Speaking on LBC Radio, the Culture Secretary said: “I think that the police need to, and have said that they will, continue to look at intelligence and will impose conditions.
“And they’ve already set out where events will take place, but I think they should keep it under review.”
She said she was “concerned about activities that are taking place on these marches”, with a number of arrests involving “incitement to racial hatred”.
Ms Frazer described the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which has been chanted at pro-Palestinian demonstrations, as “extremely offensive” and antisemitic.
“I feel for the Jewish community, who are feeling very unsafe,” she said, suggesting it was “a very, very sad state of affairs in our country”.
In a statement on Tuesday, Sir Mark said intelligence surrounding the potential for serious disorder this weekend does not meet the threshold to apply to prohibit the march.
“The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protest, therefore there will be a protest this weekend,” he said.
He added that use of the power to block moving protests is “incredibly rare” and must be reserved for cases where there is intelligence to suggest a “real threat” of serious disorder.
He said organisers of Saturday’s rally have shown “complete willingness to stay away from the Cenotaph and Whitehall and have no intention of disrupting the nation’s remembrance events”.
“Should this change, we’ve been clear we will use powers and conditions available to us to protect locations and events of national importance at all costs.”
The Met had urged march organisers to “urgently reconsider” the event on Saturday because of a growing risk of violence, but the pro-Palestinian coalition behind it have refused to call it off.
The force could request the power to ban the event under Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986, but that would only apply if there was the threat of serious public disorder which could not be controlled by other measures.
The coalition of groups, which includes the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War and the Muslim Association of Britain, insisted they will press ahead with the demonstration calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
There are concerns that breakaway groups from the main march could look for trouble, while counter-demonstrations may add to policing difficulties.
The i newspaper reported that messages in one anti-Islamic WhatsApp group, containing more than 1,000 members, call on people to “fight back” against pro-Palestinian protesters.
English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson has also spoken out, saying: “British men are mobilising for Saturday to be in London” to “show our Government and show our police and show Hamas and everyone sitting around the world saying ‘Britain has fallen’ that there is a resistance”.
A call to arms has also been issued on social media by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, a right-wing organisation that uses football fan networks to spread Islamophobic hate.
A post on the group’s Facebook page says: “Vets have reached out and asked for our support due to the threat from the far-left and pro-Palestinian supporters to disrupt the Remembrance Day parade.
“We are calling on all football lads up and down the country to join us in standing shoulder to shoulder with our veterans that fought for our freedom.”
Ms Frazer urged groups to refrain from “taking responsibility into their own hands”.
The Cabinet minister said: “We live in a country where we have freedom of expression, but what I do not want to see is any escalation of violence across the board.”
The planned route for the London march goes from Hyde Park – about a mile from the Cenotaph – to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames.
The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which will be attended by the King and Queen and other members of the royal family, will take place on Saturday.
Remembrance Sunday events will take place at the Cenotaph in Westminster the following day.