Rishi Sunak warns Met Chief: Youll take the blame is protests turn violent

The PM hauled in Britain’s top policeman over fears that the “disrespectful” demo will be a platform for unrest.

But he said the war heroes being honoured had fought fascism to give Britons the right to peacefully protest “even if we disagree with them”.

Mr Sunak said: “This weekend people around the UK will come together in quiet reflection to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. It is not hyperbole to say that we are the beneficiaries of an inheritance born of their sacrifice.

“It is because that sacrifice is so immense, that Saturday’s planned protest is not just disrespectful but offends our heartfelt gratitude to the memory of those who gave so much so that we may live in freedom and peace today.

“But part of that freedom is the right to peacefully protest. And the test of that freedom is whether our commitment to it can survive the discomfort and frustration of those who seek to use it, even if we disagree with them. We will meet that test and remain true to our principles.”

Sir Mark was summoned for an emergency meeting as fury grew over the planned protest on Saturday that is expected to attract as many as 100,000 demonstrators.

READ MORE: The UK is at risk of social unrest and violent clashes on our streets

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has resisted calls to stop the march calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip as intelligence on the potential for serious disorder does not meet the threshold for trying to ban it.

Mr Sunak said it is “welcome” that the march will be kept away from the Cenotaph and does not conflict with any Remembrance events.

But he warned there “remains the risk” of those who “seek to divide society using this weekend as a platform to do so”.

“That is what I discussed with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in our meeting,” he added.

“The Commissioner has committed to keep the Met Police’s posture under constant review based on the latest intelligence about the nature of the protests.

“And finally, to our veterans and their families, I assure you that we will do everything it takes to protect this special weekend for you and our country, as we come together to reflect on those who protected our freedom.”

Ministers could introduce emergency legislation to lower the bar so the protest is stopped but it is understood there are “no active plans” for such a move.

But Sir Mark has the power to apply for a ban on the march if the intelligence changes over the next 48 hours.

Ahead of the Downing Street meeting, Mr Sunak said the march is “disrespectful” and allowing it to go ahead is a “decision that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has made”.

Don’t miss…
Owen Jones accused of ‘hysterical lefty rant’ by Tory MP in clash over protest[POLITICS ]
Police make statement after ending investigation into attacked poppy seller[UK]
Nigel Farage sets out ‘only possible compromise’ for Remembrance protest[POLITICS]

  • Support fearless journalism
  • Read The Daily Express online, advert free
  • Get super-fast page loading

“He has said that he can ensure that we safeguard remembrance for the country this weekend as well as keep the public safe,” Mr Sunak said.

“Now, my job is to hold him accountable for that. We’ve asked the police for information on how they will ensure that this happens.”

No 10 denied the Prime Minister was trying to pile pressure on Sir Mark.

“The Met are operationally independent, it’s the job of the Prime Minister and the Government to hold them to account for their approach,” a spokesman said.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper called on the group behind the protest to call it off to avoid unrest.

He said: “The Government’s position remains that it would prefer that the organisers didn’t hold the march.

“It’s provocative and disrespectful, we think, in holding it on Armistice Day, and we would urge them to reconsider.”

It follows calls on Tuesday from Scotland Yard for organisers to “urgently reconsider” the event on Saturday because of a growing risk of violence.

The force could request the power to ban the event under Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986, but that would only apply if there was the threat of serious public disorder which could not be controlled by other measures.

There are concerns that breakaway groups from the main march could look for trouble, while counter-demonstrations may add to policing difficulties.

The planned route for the London march goes from Hyde Park – about a mile from the war memorial in Whitehall – to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames.

The Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which will be attended by the King and Queen and other members of the royal family, will take place on Saturday.

Remembrance Sunday events will take place at the Cenotaph in Westminster the following day.

Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Sunak of “cowardice” for “picking a fight” with the Metropolitan Police over their decision to allow a pro-Palestinian demonstration to take place on Armistice Day.

The Labour leader said: “Remembrance events must be respected. Full stop.

“But the person the PM needs to hold accountable is his Home Secretary. Picking a fight with the police instead of working with them is cowardice.”

Conservative MP Richard Drax said the right to protest peacefully in this country “is long held and rightly so”.

But he added: “Saturday’s march must be banned. Not only is it disrespectful, but there is a genuine risk of disorder, potentially on a large scale.”

Source: Read Full Article