Hezbollah and Palestine supporters staging a sit-down protest brought part of central London to a standstill on Sunday afternoon.
A few hundred people marched down Regent Street, behind the Palestinian and Hezbollah terror flag, before sitting down at the junction with Oxford Street shortly after 4.30pm on Sunday.
Many carried banners with messages including “Boycott Israel”, “Freedom for Palestine” and “Zionism = racism”.
The demonstration wound its way through the capital’s retail heart, which was busy with shoppers.
A man on a loudspeaker led the protesters in chants of “Free Palestine”.
One speaker blamed the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, which has left at least 58 people dead, on Israel supporters. Addressing the crowd at Grosvenor Square, he said: “Many innocents were murdered by Theresa May’s cronies – many of which are supporters of Zionist ideologies. Some of the biggest corporations who are supporting the Conservative Party are Zionists. They are responsible for the murder in Grenfell. The Zionist supporters of the Tory Party.”
— Zionist Federation (@ZionistFed) June 18, 2017
A counter protest, organised by Jewish groups including the Zionist Federation, was also held nearby, featuring speakers from the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council, Zionist Federation, and other communal groups.
Speaking to Jewish News after addressing the counter-demonstration in Grosvenor Square, Matthew Offord MP condemned the flying of Hezbollah flags in Central London.
He said: “There are Hezbollah flags being flown. When they were flown in 2015, outside Number 10, I spoke with the then Home Secretary who agreed with me, that as Hezbollah is proscribed under the Terrorism Act, they should not be doing so.
“The Police have a different legal opinion, and they feel that the political wing of Hezbollah is different from the paramilitary wing, and as such they allow them to do so.”.
Addressing what action he think can be taken, Offord, who was re-elected in Hendon two weeks ago, said: “I’m going to continue to press the new HS to have this proscribed under the terrorism act, so that Hezbollah flags, as with ISIS flags, should not be flown on the streets of London.”
Simon Johnson of the Jewish Leadership Council said they’d “already made this representation in our annual meetings with the Prime Minister, for each of the last two years” with regards to the flying of Hezbollah flags.
He added: “I am convinced we’ve been caught in a bit of a civil service paralysis. It’s been kicked around from department to department. Now that we’ve suffered terrible terrorist outrages in this country – surely now is the time to be able to ban the flag of Hezbollah.
“This is a terrorist flag. Hezbollah are a terrorist organisation. There is enough evidence of it and it really is time [to ban it].”
He welcomed Matthew Offord’s support to take more action, before saying: “We’re going to make these steps formally to the Prime Minister, the Home Office and the Foreign Office”.
In the lead up to Al Quds Day, more than 15,000 petitioned Sadiq Khan, urging him to stop the march from taking place. Asked whether the Mayor of London had done enough, Johnson said: “It’s not his remit [to ban it], but it is in his remit to work with the Metropolitan Police to ban marches like this. I think his response to this has been disappointing. I think he could have taken more action on this. They [the Met Police] didn’t need to agree to a march. it could have been a static demonstration. That would have been perfectly proper and appropriate, and a guarantee of free speech for all sides. The fact they agreed for it to be a march was an easy way out for them.”