Over 350 protesters staged a sit-in at Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus on Saturday, demanding Israel halt its bombing campaign and siege of the Gaza Strip.
The protest brought the capital’s busiest shopping district to a standstill for over an hour.
The action, which began outside the offices of the BBC to criticise the network’s coverage of the war, was led by the newly formed Free Palestine Coalition, which includes Sisters Uncut and BlackLivesMatter UK.
“This demonstration is an embodiment of the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who are outraged by the genocide in Gaza,” Zami Jackson, a spokesperson for the coalition, said.
Demonstrators, many waving Palestinian flags, chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, and held banners calling for a “ceasefire” and “no business as usual”.
Skirmishes erupted between some of the protesters and the police at Piccadilly Circus, with at least 11 demonstrators arrested.
The sit-in came as tens of thousands of pro-Palestine protesters rallied across the UK in a day of action, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other groups, to demand a ceasefire, with an estimated 40,000 people gathering for a rally in Trafalgar Square.
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In London, local protests were held across the city, with feeder marches leading to the main rally in Trafalgar Square.
Demonstrators later spilled out of the square and occupied Charing Cross station.
‘Death is everywhere’
Ahmed Masoud, a Palestinian writer who grew up in the Gaza Strip, was one of the speakers in Trafalgar Square.
“I am here because I have family in Gaza,” he told Middle East Eye. “My mum, my siblings… all of them live there. They’re really struggling, it’s like Russian roulette at the moment.
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“Now death is everywhere. But they’ve been dying a slow death for a very long time.”
The day of action came as tensions mounted ahead of a planned pro-Palestine protest on Saturday 11 November, Armistice Day, which UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called “provocative and disrespectful”.
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman this week accused demonstrators protesting in support of Palestinians and calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as taking part in “hate marches” and said the UK government stood “foursquare in support of Israel”.
The ongoing Israeli onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip has killed an estimated 9,448 since the start of the war on 7 October, including 3,900 children and 2,500 women.
Despite recent polling indicating that over 75 percent of the British public wanted a ceasefire, neither Sunak nor Labour leader Keir Starmer have called for one.
Earlier this week, a top UN official, Craig Mokhiber, resigned after writing a letter branding Israel’s military operations in Gaza as “textbook genocide” and the UK, US and Europe as “wholly complicit in the horrific assault”.