Nick Ferrari Points Out Irony Of Government Discouraging Protests On Armistice Day

Downing Street has spoken out against the pro-Palestinian demonstration planned for this weekend.
There have been major protests across London every weekend since the Israel-Hamas war broke out last month.
There have been major protests across London every weekend since the Israel-Hamas war broke out last month.
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Nick Ferrari has pointed out a potential flaw in the government’s opposition to pro-Palestinian marches planned for Armistice weekend.

The government has actively discouraged any demonstrations next weekend, during Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, and PM Rishi Sunak has said it would be “disrespectful” for such a march to go ahead.

He claimed that it would present a “risk” to the Cenotaph and other war memorials could be “desecrated”.

When Ferrari, an LBC anchor, interviewed the energy secretary Claire Coutinho on Monday morning, he asked her: “Do you think the Met should seek to ban the protest on Saturday?”

She said: “Well look, I’m seriously concerned about those protests. When you think about what Saturday means for all of us, it’s a really solemn day when we remember people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, and I don’t think anyone wants to see that disrupted.

“I don’t think that would chime with our British culture of decency. And what we have said is that the police who have operational responsibility for this – if they were to decide there would be a disorder risk, and would choose to ban those protests, the government would stand fully behind them to do that.”

But, Ferrari replied: “Isn’t that what all those brave men and women gave their lives for though, secretary of state? Freedom, the freedom for people to demonstrate?”

The cabinet minister replied: “I think it’s really important that people do have the freedom to demonstrate, but also that it’s respectful of those who are having a national day of mourning.”

Armistice Day is marked with a two-minute silence on November 11 every year in the UK, and honours the agreement which ended the fighting of the First World War before official peace negotiations began.

As the website explains, “armistice is Latin for ‘to stand (still) arms’.”

The march’s organisers at the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign are calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Since the Palestinian militants Hamas launched an attack on Israel, killed 1,400 and took more than 240 people hostage, according to Tel Aviv, Gaza claims Israel has killed more than 9,770 Palestinians through air strikes, ground invasion and the siege.

On BBC Breakfast, host Sally Nugent also questioned the government’s response to the protests.

After the minister said demonstrations could damage war memorials, Nugent pointed out to Coutinho that the protest’s organisers “say they won’t go near the Cenotaph.”

Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, involves a National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph including members of the Royal Family and a March Past with 10,000 veterans.

Coutinho hit back: “Well, what we’ve seen in the past with some of these protests is some really horrific behaviour, whether it is – as you mentioned, desecrating the Cenotaph, but also things like chants of ‘jihad jihad’.

“We’ve seen signs of people where they’ve put the Star of David in a bin, we’ve seen some really horrible things take place.”

The Metropolitan Police has operational independence when it comes to allowing such a march to go ahead.

Former Scotland Yard Superintendent Nusrit Mehtab told Sky News on Monday that the march should be permitted.

She explained: “The organisers have been holding a march [every weekend] for the last three weeks, they’ve been liaising with the police, they’ve been discussing the route, the route isn’t going anywhere near Whitehall, it’s on Saturday – and the timing is 12.45pm, which is two hours after the minute’s silence.

“The thing is, policing has to keep its own operational independence, so the commissioner of police will look at the threat, the risk, the intelligence which is coming towards it and make that decision.”

“Free speech shouldn’t be criminalised,” she added, pointing out that the organisers have promised to be “sensitive”.

Mehtab continued: “Remembrance weekend is about ‘never again,’ it’s about Western democracies, it’s about freedoms. One of the freedoms is the right to free assembly and the right to protest.”

She said people fought in the wars so people could march – and the people who plan to protest at the weekend are calling for a ceasefire, she pointed out.

“it’s about saying no to war,” she said, while reiterating that the police would deal with anyone who committed offences.


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