The UK government called an urgent COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) meeting on Tuesday, as officials anticipate 70,000 pro-Hamas protestors on Remembrance Day (Armistice Day in the UK) Saturday on the streets of London.
Local police are in the process of deciding if they will ban the pro-Hamas march.
The purpose of COBRA and the Civil Contingencies Committee is “high-level coordination and decision making” to handle “major disruption or catastrophic national emergencies” including “natural disasters, terrorist attacks and major industrial accidents or disruption.”
The meeting was called by deputy prime minister Oliver Dowdenwill, citing the impact of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7. The government previously stated planning an Armistice Day protest is "an affront to the public.”
London police, who met with various activist groups Monday, have asked the pro-Hamas protestors to “urgently reconsider” the rallies this weekend.
Organizers refused to cancel the demonstration, though police ensured they would not go past the Cenotaph.
Meanwhile football fans have pledged to “team up” and “protect” the Armistice Day Cenotaph gathering from being disrupted by pro-Hamas supporters. Police are expecting more than one thousand to attend.
English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson urged on Twitter ("X") for people to come out in support of the veterans. "London, your country needs you," he wrote.
Independent reviewer of terror legislation Jonathan Hall said there is precedent for Islamic extremists to co-opt the special day to honour fallen heroes in an attempt to “delegitimize soldiers,” as seen when Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered in 2013.
Islamists have a documented history of using Remembrance Day protests as a “recruitment method,” Hall said, warning the football fans descending on London may lead to “an extreme Right-wing terrorist backlash” if the pro-Hamas demonstrators are allowed to march this weekend.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s said The COBRA meeting “will look at a wide range of areas, but it’s obviously particularly focused on the impact of the terrorist attack on the UK domestically.”
Politicians will address the issue of “community cohesion” as they look towards likely disruption in London on Saturday.
Sunak believes a pro-Hamas march on Armistice Day would be “provocative and disrespectful” and the government would “carefully consider” any avenues available to them to prevent the rallies this weekend — however, the decision on whether or not the protest should be banned completely is up to the Metropolitan Police.
“The Prime Minister himself does not think it’s right for these sorts of protests to be scheduled on Armistice Day,” the spokesman said. “To plan these sorts of protests in and around Armistice Day is provocative, it’s disrespectful."
“Should memorials be desecrated or should we see some of the instances of racial hatred for which there were arrests at the weekend be expressed on these days? I think that would be an affront to the British public.”
Metropolitan Police deputy assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan warned the risk of rallies of this nature is growing.
“The risk of violence and disorder linked to breakaway groups is growing. This is of concern ahead of a significant and busy weekend in the capital,” Adelekan said.
“Our message to organizers is clear: Please, we ask you to urgently reconsider. It is not appropriate to hold any protests in London this weekend.”
The Israel-Hamas conflict is causing division among UK officials as well.
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said the rallies should “absolutely” go on this weekend. Union bosses Mick Lynch, Matt Wrack and Daniel Kebede support the pro-Hamas protesters and said they will attend the upcoming march.
Former Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson slammed the anti-Israel protest Tuesday, calling it "tone-deaf" and "insensitive."
"I do think it's hugely regrettable that organizations think it's appropriate to march on this particular date on this weekend. At the very least, it would seem to me to be tone deaf and somewhat insensitive," he said. "The decision of the Commissioner to apply to the Home Secretary for a ban, I think, is a delicate and tricky one."
"These judgments may go to the wire, with responsible police leadership working hard to bring about an appeal for common sense resolution."
Anti-Israel protesters have already defaced a monument in Rochdale dedicated to British soldiers killed in WWI.