Protesters who vandalise the Cenotaph should be put into jail, says Braverman

Police officers clashed with pro-Palestinian supporters near the Cenotaph during a demonstration in London last week (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)
Police officers clashed with pro-Palestinian supporters near the Cenotaph during a demonstration in London last week (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

The Home Secretary said any pro-Palestine protesters who vandalise the Cenotaph should be “put into a jail cell faster than their feet can touch the ground”.

Suella Braverman also said she “won’t hesitate to act” if it is found that police need stronger powers to deal with what she called “utterly odious” behaviour at demonstrations.

The senior Conservative, who revealed she has never personally been part of a demonstration, told Sky News that some elements of the protests had turned into “hate marches”.

It comes as thousands of people descended upon central London on Saturday to demand a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

If anyone were to vandalise the Cenotaph, they must be put into a jail cell faster than their feet can touch the ground

Home Secretary Suella Braverman

Fighting in the Middle East reignited after Hamas, a militant Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip, carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking about 240 hostages.

Tel Aviv’s retaliation, which has included a ground incursion into the territory, has killed more than 9,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

The bloodshed has sparked a host of protests since Hamas’s deadly raids on October 7.

The British Transport Police confirmed on Saturday that it is making inquiries into chanting on the tube network by demonstrators in the capital.

In one video highlighted to the Metropolitan Police on X, formerly known as Twitter, what appear to be pro-Palestinian supporters can be heard chanting: “Smash the Zionist settler state.”

Others during the protests chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.

The Home Secretary has previously branded the slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel — a claim pro-Palestinian protesters have contested.

During the ceasefire march, 350 people staged a sit-in protest which shut down Oxford Circus, with a crowd later using the same method to disrupt passengers at Charing Cross station, which is near Trafalgar Square.

A total of 29 people were arrested in London, including for inciting racial hatred, other racially motivated crimes, violence and assaulting a police officer, the Metropolitan Police said.

In Belfast on Saturday afternoon, pro-Palestinian activists marched from Queen’s University to the US consulate building in the south of the city.

The rally organised near the consulate heard speeches and chants condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza and the United States’ support for the Israeli stance.

A protest in Glasgow saw the BBC headquarters in the Scottish city targeted by demonstrators, with activists holding up mock body bags in outcry at the 3,000 Palestinian children killed in the past three weeks.

The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have expressed concern about the prospect of further pro-Palestine protests next Saturday, November 11, during Armistice Day.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has promised to take a “robust approach” and to use “all the powers available” to ensure commemorative events are “not undermined”.

But demonstration organisers in London have pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph war memorial – the focus of national remembrance events – is located.

Mrs Braverman, who visited the Greek island of Samos on Saturday to learn about measures deployed there to cut unauthorised migration, said Armistice Day should be treated with the “solemnity with which it deserves”.

Asked what action should be taken if the Cenotaph were to be targeted during protests, Mrs Braverman told Sky News: “Armistice Day is a day that is of profound national significance in Britain, it represents our moment of collective mourning and remembrance and reverence.

“And it must be treated with the solemnity with which it deserves.

“If anyone were to vandalise the Cenotaph, they must be put into a jail cell faster than their feet can touch the ground.”

Mrs Braverman said any decision to ban pro-Palestine marches on Armistice Day would have to be assessed by police before an application to her is made.

She added: “It has got to be based on their assessment and their belief that there is a risk of serious disorder.

“What we’ve seen in the last few weeks is tens of thousands of people taking to the streets of Britain chanting jihad, calling for the erasure of Israel and behaving in many instances in a flagrantly antisemitic manner.

“To me, those are incredibly offensive and it is utterly odious behaviour.”

Pushed on whether she thought demonstrations should be allowed to go ahead, the Home Secretary replied: “I think I’ve been pretty clear that these are hate marches.

“I think (the) chanting of jihad on the streets of Britain in the twenty-first century is utterly despicable.

“And I don’t see how any decent person or how the vast majority of the British people can find that to be acceptable behaviour. It is sickening.”

In Gaza, the only route out for foreign nationals and the sole entry point for incoming aid was shut on Saturday.

The Foreign Office said the temporary closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt was “disappointing” and it was pressing for the key border post to be reopened.

A spokesman said: “We remain in contact with British nationals in the region to provide them with the latest information.

“It is vital that the safe passage of people, including all foreign nationals, and humanitarian aid can continue.”

At least 100 Britons, including the in-laws of Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, have left the bombarded enclave using the Rafah crossing since it opened to foreign nationals this week.

But more are thought to want to exit, with around 200 in Gaza so far registering with the authorities.

Along with their dependents, the total number the UK is trying to secure passage for is thought to be in the low hundreds.

Aid agencies are battling a crisis in Gaza with limited resources, with Israeli’s government pushing back against growing US pressure for a “humanitarian pause” in the war to protect civilians and allow more aid into the area.

The UK Government said the Royal Air Force has delivered 51 tonnes of essential supplies and equipment to support those in Gaza, including 76,800 wound care packs, 2,560 solar lights and 1,350 water filters.