Rishi Sunak faces calls for tougher laws to stop hate marches as he considers giving police more powers to crack down on them
- Armed Forces minister said ‘laws need to be strengthened to avoid’ the hate
The law around marches must be toughened, a minister said yesterday, as Rishi Sunak considers giving police more powers to crack down on them.
Armed Forces minister James Heappey said ‘clearly the law needs to be strengthened to avoid’ protesters displaying or chanting ‘hateful’ messages.
It came as the Government’s adviser on political violence and disruption said the balance ‘does not seem to be in the right place’ when it comes to protecting the Jewish community.
The Prime Minister could give police greater powers to protect the public following Armistice Day clashes and prosecute those glorifying terrorism, it emerged yesterday. Mr Sunak could introduce laws to allow the police to restrict protests after they said they were unable to prevent Saturday’s march.
Tougher powers could enable officers to act on chants such as ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ which is regarded as anti-Semitic by the Jewish community. Other measures could expand the definition of glorifying terrorism, or create specific offences around protesters climbing on monuments and statues. The law around fireworks, smoke bombs and flares could also be tightened.
The law around marches must be toughened, a minister said yesterday, as Rishi Sunak considers giving police more powers to crack down on them (File Photo)
Mr Heappey stressed that the police had operational independence to decide how to respond to protests, but he said the Government has to decide whether current laws are suitable.
‘It is right that the Government would be looking at whether things need to be done legislatively to allow the police to manage protests better,’ he told Sky News.
He added that ‘if it looks like protests are happening again and again, and that people are turning up each week carrying placards and shouting chants that are hateful’ then ‘clearly the law needs to be strengthened to avoid that’. Mr Sunak has said far-Right ‘thugs’ and ‘those singing anti-Semitic chants and brandishing pro-Hamas signs and clothing’ must face ‘the full and swift force of the law’.
Hundreds of thousands of people took part in Saturday’s rally despite the Prime Minister describing it as ‘disrespectful and provocative’.
More than 100 arrests were made and seven people charged following ugly scenes involving far-Right groups and pro-Palestine protesters in central London.
The Prime Minister could give police greater powers to protect the public following Armistice Day clashes and prosecute those glorifying terrorism, it emerged yesterday
Mr Sunak has said he will meet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley in the ‘coming days’ after he vowed to hold him ‘accountable’ for the march.
Sir Mark had resisted political pressure to block the Gaza march coinciding with Remembrance events, saying the scale of potential trouble fell short of the high threshold the law demands for a ban. It came as Lord Walney, the Government’s adviser on political violence and disruption, said the balance ‘does not seem to be in the right place’ when it comes to assessing the rights of protesters and the safety of the Jewish community.
Asked whether he wanted to see pro-Palestinian marches stopped until a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war is negotiated, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘The right for people to protest is important and there are clearly very strong feelings on this matter.
‘However, if you look at the scale of intimidation which Jewish people in London and across the UK are feeling, we should be treating this as a national emergency.’
He added: ‘For the majority of Jewish people, as represented by organisations like the Board of Deputies, they are living a life of fear at the moment in the UK, which is not something we should ever tolerate here.
‘We should be prepared to look at where the balance is lying at the moment, and it does not seem to be in the right place.’
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