Trafalgar Square in London witnessed an impressive turnout last week as thousands congregated to advocate for the release of hostages seized by Hamas. Amid this intense situation, there are calls for more explicit government guidelines on handling extremism. Met Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, has found himself at the center of these requests, facing backlash for his handling of pro-Palestinian protests in the capital.
This development comes on the heels of the arrest and subsequent charging of five individuals during protests that took place centrally in London this past Saturday. Commissioner Rowley disclosed that since the Hamas attack on Israel three weeks ago, about 100 people have been arrested during demonstrations. He anticipates “many more” forthcoming arrests.
Saturday’s pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London, advocating for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, saw mostly peaceful conduct despite the aggregation of at least 100,000 participants. Nine individuals were taken into custody, among them a 33-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, both charged with committing a racially aggravated public order offence. A 51-year-old woman and 16-year-old boy were charged with public order violations while a 41-year-old man has been charged with inflicting actual bodily harm.
Rowley elaborated on the challenges his force faces due to ambiguous legal terms of extremism and called for a review of the operational definition, suggesting the need for more exact legislative tools. He stated, “There is scope to be much sharper in how we deal with extremism within this country. The law was never designed to deal with extremism… and that is creating a gap.”
According to Rowley, lawyers from the Crown Prosecution service are collaborating with the police to detect offences accurately during protests. He says, “there’s no point arresting hundreds of people if it’s not prosecutable, that’s just inflaming things”. He assures the public that the law will be enforced to its full extent and predicts several more arrests in the coming week. While befitting a delicate situation, Rowley’s force pledges to remain both resolute and just.