Sadiq Khan accuses Suella Braverman of ‘posturing’ over pro-Palestinian protests


Sadiq Khan has criticised Suella Braverman for describing pro-Palestinian protests as “hate marches”, saying her “posturing” could divide communities.

Speaking to Beth Rigby for Sky News’ Politics Hub programme, the Mayor of London said that “by and large”, demonstrations in the capital have seen people acting in a “peaceful, lawful and safe way”.

Instead, he urged the home secretary to listen to calls from the head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Mark Rowley for the government to “step in and provide clarity” over extremism legislation to tackle the “small minority [who] may have acted outside the law”.

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Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the past three weeks to show their support for Palestinians amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

While many of the protesters have been calling for an end to the airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, other more troubling incidents have surfaced, including protesters chanting “jihad” or using antisemitic tropes – with five people charged after the latest demonstration on Saturday.

The Met Police has faced criticism for not making more arrests, but the commissioner told Sky News there was a “gap” in the law when it comes to extremism, and there was “scope to be much sharper” in legislation to tackle it.

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‘UK could be sharper in how we deal with extremism’

Speaking after an emergency COBRA meeting chaired by Rishi Sunak on Monday, Ms Braverman gave her assessment of the protests so far, telling broadcasters: “To my mind there is only one way to describe those marches: they are hate marches.”

But Mr Khan disagreed with her language, telling Rigby that the home secretary “should be bringing people together… rather than seeking to divide people by posturing”.

He said: “A cornerstone of our democracy is the ability to protest, to lobby MP politicians, to email them, to go to their surgeries, to get involved in civic society.

“By and large, over the last three weeks, the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve been protesting have been doing it in a peaceful, lawful and safe way.

“I accept a small minority may have acted outside the law. That may be a grey area. And what the home secretary should be doing is listening to her commissioner, who has said quite clearly the government should be stepping in and providing clarity in relation to laws around extremism.”

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Thousands protest for ceasefire

The mayor spoke about the 2000s when tensions in the Middle East were heightened over the Iraq war.

He said one of the things the Labour government he was then in “encouraged, particularly Muslims to do in this country, was to get involved in mainstream politics… and what she’s doing, either intentionally or unintentionally, is driving citizens away from mainstream democracy, which is protest”.

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Mr Khan added: “We’ve seen an increase in Islamophobia and antisemitism. [Ms Braverman] should be bringing people together, explaining – look, you can have strong views, be pro-Palestinian, but you must not be antisemitic.

You can have strong views supporting the government of Israel, but you can also have sympathy and empathy for those in Gaza and want to bring people together. [She could] unite our society rather than seeking to divide people by posturing.”

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Pro-Palestinian protesters sit down at Waterloo station

Mr Khan said he was “speaking on a daily basis” with the Met and had received briefings from the commissioner over the recent protests.

“The police have got to police without fear or favour, whatever their views are… they’ve got to enforce the law,” he said.

“And if there’s confusion in the law, what the home secretary can be doing, which would be helpful, is provide clarity. Rather than doing that, she’s using [this] language.”

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But defending her cabinet colleague over her initial remarks, Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said Ms Braverman had “reflected the repulsion that many people heard when they heard these chants of basically demanding an end to Israel”

She did tell broadcasters, however, that she was “very conscious that’s a minority of people” on the marches.


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