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Public order well done in London

Met officers were able to prevent conflict among rival factions at a big protest last weekend as well as keeping a close eye on other demonstrations in the capital.

Public order well done in London

Date - 20th April 2023
By - Chris Hobbs
2 Comments 2 Comments}

As the Mail and other media outlets were scrambling around for further stories which would denigrate police, the Met prepared for what was looking to be a relatively quiet weekend on the public order front. West Ham versus Arsenal presented a familiar challenge which would rely on tried and tested tactics seen over many years at high risk ‘Cat C,’ matches in London.

Saturday saw another protest against Mayor Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which was again centred on Trafalgar Square. There was a visible increase in numbers as compared to a similar event some weeks ago. At the Nelson’s Column end of the Square protesters gathered on the footways with placards, whistles, hooters and ‘high viz’ tabards with slogans that featured numerous, less than complementary references to Mayor Khan.

Other protesters were mobile in vans, flatbacks and even a vintage fire engine. With placards attached they ‘circled the block,’ before returning and sounding their horns as they passed fellow protesters and tourists.

Public support

The presence of the noisy high viz attired protesters drew considerable support from passing drivers be they behind the wheels of buses, vans, lorries, taxis or private cars. Meanwhile, in front of Nelson’s Column, a sound system was set up and various speeches were made most of which were inaudible as the speakers simply weren’t powerful enough.

The protest was lightly policed and relations with those officers present were cordial. The individual who hurled accusations of misogyny, racism and homophobia at an officer during the previous protest was present together with other anti-vaxxers known for their hostility to police; on this occasion however, they kept their views to themselves.

As was expected, all the protesters eventually set off down Whitehall towards Downing Street. The first several hundred carried on walking past Downing Street then strolled around the exterior of Parliament Square before returning up Whitehall to the gates which protect the Prime Minister’s abode. They then joined another large group who decided to remain outside the Downing Street and who spent most of their time chanting; ’Get Khan Out.’

Other issues

After around fifteen minutes, the group returned to Trafalgar Square but ULEZ/anti-Khan protesters were not the only issues which were being addressed. Along King Georges Street a crowd opposed to the current Iranian regime were gathered to support a gentleman who was on the 52nd day of a hunger strike. He was able to make a speech in Farsi which was well received.

A further walk back up Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square saw pro-Ukrainian protesters setting up for their weekly protest against the Russian invasion.

ULEZ Nazis?

Mayor Khan has recently suggested that ULEZ protesters have been infiltrated by ‘Nazis,’ which has caused some amusement to staunch Labour party supporters I know who are nevertheless opposed to his scheme.

However, familiar faces from anti-vaxx and far-right protests were clearly visible. Some of the literature being handed out in Trafalgar Square referred to various conspiracies that had nothing to do with ULEZ, while issues around ULEZ, LTN’s and ‘fifteen- minute cities,’ have been incorporated into the ‘portfolios’ of those on the far right.

However, I would suggest that hostility to ULEZ crosses political boundaries and many on the left are also opposed to this ‘tax,’ especially those whose occupations involve travelling around London in vehicles purchased with environmental considerations in mind.

Whether or not Mayor Khan is correct in his assessment, it is fact that these ULEZ protests in central London have been trouble free to the extent that they are lightly policed. Previous far-right protests, including yellow vests, Tommy Robinson and anti-Lockdown/anti-vaccine events have been characterised by elements who showed hostility towards, together with attacks on, police.

Interestingly, on the same day as the ULEZ protest, there was an ‘outreach’ march from Speakers Corner to Brixton by anti-vaxxer/anti-globalist campaigners which also included placards against ’15-minute-cities. It appears that this too was uneventful.

As the ULEZ D-Day draws near however, the size of the protests may well increase. Hopefully, these won’t draw in those with dubious motivations which would include provoking violent confrontation with police.

The Al-Quds march

Sunday saw a larger police presence for the annual Al-Quds demonstration; Similar events take place across the world at this time and the event is linked to Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.

The march assembled outside the Home Office and those attending were marshalled by a jovial man on a microphone who attempted to whip up some enthusiasm amongst a crowd that seemed rather flat. (He also berated the Home Secretary for failing to pay police officers a decent wage). However, the enthusiasm of the crowd seemed to increase as the march got under way via Horseferry Road and then into Millbank. A line of police headed the procession, the reasons for which soon became apparent.

As the corner was turned into Millbank, in the distance could be seen a plethora of Israeli flags held by around 50 supporters who were on the footway. It looked for a while as if the Al Quds procession would have to pass them by but then the Israeli supporters moved into the road.

Police halted the Al-Quds march while their colleagues ushered the Israeli supporters towards Parliament. Youths, some masked, left the now static march and moved along the footway in an attempt to physically confront their ‘opponents.’ They were quickly intercepted by police.

Officers frustrate attempts at conflict

The march commenced and the Israeli counter-protesters reached Parliament; police cordons were removed but a gap of around 200 yards was kept between the two rival groups. Tourists watched as another group of youths attempted, outside Parliament, to outflank police. Their efforts were in vain and the pro-Israeli group went along Whitehall past Downing Street before stopping in an area where police had erected barriers to ensure segregation.

The Palestinian supporters compliantly entered a barriered area which consisted of a stage and screen with an effective sound system. Speeches commenced but groups of youths sneaked past the stage and again attempted to get close to their rivals. They were met by barriers and police officers and had to content themselves with hurling abuse.

After about an hour, having proved their point, the Israeli supporters folded up their flags and left; Whitehall and intrigued tourists had witnessed an event that had developed into a major policing operation. That operation ensured that there was no conflict which, had it taken place, could, have developed into an international incident and unwelcome headlines around the world.

The Met operation was, simply textbook and the conduct of its officers beyond reproach. Needless to say, those inescapable facts drew no attention from either the mainstream or social media. 

This weekend, more challenges as Extinction Rebellion and heir allies plan a major event amidst other protests plus two FA Cup semi-finals and a Sikh Vaisakhi celebration.

Chris Hobbs is a former Special Branch officer 

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Ordered by:
billydane - Wed, 26 April 2023

well done to the met for what seems a constant battle with demonstrators ; how are they getting on with the eco warriors who according to the press are allowed to obstruct highways whenever they want without the met trying to stop them , causing resentment/anger among drivers ,people trying to get to work ,appointments,schools etc and then the met threatening those who try to remove the obstructions with arrest.