Far-right thugs shame Braverman at Cenotaph after violent clashes with police

Rishi Sunak is facing massive pressure to sack Suella Braverman after her “hate” jibe at pro-Palestinian demonstrators blew up in her face.

The mass rally of around 300,000 people in London passed off without a single arrest while more than 90 far-right thugs who turned up to confront them were detained by police after a series of violent clashes.

The home secretary has been accused of inciting the violence by claiming police were biased against right winger protesters in their refusal to ban the march.

The contrast between the behaviour of the two groups has led to fresh calls for Ms Braverman to be sacked – or resign – and leaves her credibility as home secretary in tatters.

The prime minister, who has so far maintained confidence in her, must now decide whether to dismiss her, and face a full scale revolt from her right wing Tory MP supporters – or keep her and be seen as weak.

Counter-protesters clash with police in Parliament Square in central London, (PA)
Counter-protesters clash with police in Parliament Square in central London, (PA)

It came as:

  • The Metropolitan Police confirmed it had arrested more than 90 far-right activists as 2,000 counter-protesters led by English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson descended on London

  • Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched to demand a ceasefire in Gaza without incident

  • Far-right protesters barged past police throwing missiles as they stormed a Remebrance event at the Cenotaph

  • Cabinet minister Michael Gove was jeered by protesters as he arrived at Victoria station

One senior Tory MP called for Ms Braverman to apologise and quit, telling The Independent Saturday’s violence was “entirely predictable” and said far-right activists’ skirmishes with police were “entirely her fault”.

“The march was never going past the Cenotaph in the first place and her dangerous rhetoric has invited a group of so-called ‘counter-protesters’ who are no more than far-right thugs who have no place on our streets,” the MP said.

Lord Heseltine said far-right protesters attacking the police in London proved that Ms Braverman’s comments were “particularly inappropriate”.

The Tory grandee told The Independent: “The people she seemed to be trying to put to blame, the pro-Palestinian protesters, have behaved well.

“And the far-right and EDL [English Defence League] have proved they were the real trouble-makers and the police dealt with them appropriately.”

And backbench Tory MP Elliot Colburn said there has been “a lot of anger on all sides”, but appeared to criticise Ms Braverman, telling The Independent: “Some people are taking advantage by stirring it up.”

“We need to find a way forward as a country to call for calm and take the heat out of this,” he added.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said clashes between the police and far-right thugs were “a direct result of Ms Braverman’s words”, while shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper appeared to make a veiled swipe at her Tory counterpart for inflaming tensions.

She said: “It is the responsibility of all of us to bring people together over this weekend, not divide and inflame.”

Labour shadow minister Jess Phillips accused Mr Sunak of “standing by” while police were attacked by “thugs who followed the whistle of his home secretary” and Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf called on Ms Braverman to resign, saying Ms Braverman’s position was “untenable” after the clashes broke out.

“She attacked the police, she said they were biased, she made us and our police less safe,” Ms Phillips said.

“The far-right has been emboldened by the home secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the police on Armistice Day,” Mr Yousaf said.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who has family in Gaza, laid blame for any trouble caused by counter-protesters at the prime minister’s door.

She tweeted: “As the police in central London work to contain the far-right, and everyone starts to blame Suella Braverman, just remember who chose to not only give her the job but also chose not to sack her.

“Rishi Sunak is as, if not more, responsible for what happens today”.

Police clash with farright protesters in Whitehall (PA)
Police clash with farright protesters in Whitehall (PA)

Anti-racist campaign group Hope Not Hate said far right agitators had been “fuelled by the extreme rhetoric of the home secretary”.

Chief executive Nick Lowles said: “These protests do not exist in a vacuum. We’ve seen the far right growing in numbers and confidence, aided by the radical right fringes of this government.”

And Alastair Campbell accused the Conservatives of “deliberately putting a match to cultural tinder”.

Around 300,00- people took part in the Pro-Palestine march that passed without incident (Reuters)
Around 300,00- people took part in the Pro-Palestine march that passed without incident (Reuters)

The former Downing Street comms chief said: “The police would have been able to control the pro-Palestine march which was going nowhere near the Cenotaph.

“Braverman poured on petrol with her nonsense about police bias and now what should be a weekend of remembrance is becoming a ghastly source of division and possible violence.”

Far-right counter protesters were caught in skirmishes with police before the two minutes’ silence passed undisturbed at the Cenotaph as up to 2,000 turned out to counter the pro-Palestine rally.

Footage showed crowds barging past police and climbing on bollards on Saturday morning as counter protesters were penned in on Whitehall.

Counter rallies were held near the Cenotaph ahead of the two minutes’ silence (PA)
Counter rallies were held near the Cenotaph ahead of the two minutes’ silence (PA)

Crowds of men were chanting and seen climbing on bollards with pockets of disorder breaking out. However, silence fell at 11am as two-minutes’ silence was observed.

Tommy Robinson was among the crowds gathered on Whitehall after he issued a rallying cry to his supporters to turn out to “defend” the Cenotaph. He was later seen leading protesters through Chinatown where the first of the arrests happened.

Three West Ham fans were heard asking a police officer: “How far is Trafalgar Square? Is it kicking off there? That’s where I wanna be.”

The police officer was then heard giving instructions on how to get there, saying it was five minutes away.

It comes as hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on London to call for an immediate ceasefire in the deadly Israel-Gaza conflict that erupted last month.

Ms Braverman has come under fire for her criticism of police in an incendiary article in The Times on Wednesday in which she accused the police of bias over the protest.

Britain Israel Palestinians march through London on 11 November (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Britain Israel Palestinians march through London on 11 November (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Downing Street has made clear that it had not approved the extraordinary article and senior Tories have criticised it, including Jeremy Hunt saying “I would not have used those words”.

In the article, Ms Braverman compared “pro-Palestinian mobs” to marches in Northern Ireland and claimed the protesters are “largely ignored” by officers “even when clearly breaking the law”.

She has already called the weekly demonstrations, attended by thousands, “hate marches”.

But Mr Sunak has so far resisted calls to sack her as home secretary, while MPs on the right of the party are threatening to revolt if action is taken against her.