UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has launched a war of words with the Metropolitan Police with a tough-talking newspaper article on Thursday that accuses the force of not tackling the “hate marchers” protesting on the streets of London against the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Indian-origin Cabinet minister has come under strong criticism from the Opposition benches for accusing the country’s largest police force of having a “double standard” in dealing with aggression during the protests, by ignoring some actions of pro-Palestinian protesters.
In a warning to the police, Braverman pointed out that if a planned pro-Palestinian protest march goes ahead this weekend, an “assertive and proactive approach to any displays of hate” will be expected from the officers on duty.
“There have been dignified vigils in London held by Britain’s Jewish community, but that is not what has tested our capacity to maintain public order,” Braverman wrote in ‘The Times’ newspaper.
“It is the pro-Palestinian movement that has mobilised tens of thousands of angry demonstrators and marched them through London every weekend. From the start, these events have been problematic, not just because of violence around the fringes, but because of the highly offensive content of chants, posters and stickers. This is not a time for naiveté,” she noted.
“We have seen with our own eyes that terrorists have been valorised, Israel has been demonised as Nazis and Jews have been threatened with further massacresâæ I do not believe that these marches are merely a cry for help for Gaza. They are an assertion of primacy by certain groups – particularly Islamists – of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland,” she wrote.
The minister in charge of domestic security goes on to refer to the “particularly significant weekend” coming up when Britain’s war martyrs are commemorated but the “hate marchers – a phrase I do not resile from – intend to use Armistice Day to parade through London in yet another show of strength.”
“Unfortunately, there is a perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protestersâæ Right-wing and nationalist protesters who engage in aggression are rightly met with a stern response, yet pro-Palestinian mobs displaying almost identical behaviour are largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law? I have spoken to serving and former police officers who have noted this double standard,” she stated.
Her intervention came a day after her boss, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, summoned Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to discuss policing plans over the Remembrance weekend.
In a statement on Wednesday, Sunak said that the “right to peacefully protest” will be respected after reassurances that the police are taking every step necessary to safeguard the Remembrance services.
“There remains the risk of those who seek to divide society using this weekend as a platform to do so. That is what I discussed with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in our meeting. The Commissioner has committed to keep the Met Police’s posture under constant review based on the latest intelligence about the nature of the protests,” said Sunak.
Under UK law, if a police chief of any force believes there is a serious risk of disorder which its officers will struggle to contain, they can ask the Home Secretary to ban a march.
Even then, a static protest can take place. The Opposition attacked the government for challenging the authority and independence of the police, with some labelling Braverman as being “out of control”.
“Remembrance events must be respected. Full stop. But the person the Prime Minister needs to hold accountable is his Home Secretary. Picking a fight with the police instead of working with them is cowardice,” said Labour Leader Keir Starmer.
The party’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, added: “Suella Braverman is out of control…. Either Rishi Sunak has licensed this or he is too weak to sack her.”