The demonstrators represented a broad cross-section of the population: families with babies in strollers, teenagers chatting and laughing with flags draped over their shoulders, an older man who walked slowly but joined the mass of people as it progressed down the park’s main avenue.
Mary Robertson, 39, had come from her home in South London with her partner and 2-year-old daughter. “We want to show Palestinians that we see what’s happening to them,” she said, carrying her daughter while her partner pushed a stroller decorated with a sign reading, “Armistice in Gaza Now.”
“What’s happening in Gaza is so shocking — nothing feels OK if you’re not doing something,” Ms. Robertson added.
The mood was calm and cheerful early in the afternoon, though a helicopter hovered overhead and police officers were scattered on the edges of the crowd and in nearby subway stations. Every so often, someone would lead a chant of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” although not everyone joined in.
Nazish Aqayyum, a doctor and mother of four from Birmingham, had wrapped a Mickey Mouse toy belonging to her youngest son in a white sheet that she had painted with red stains to mimic blood. “The Palestinians are having to see babies in sheets all the time,” she said. “So I’ve come without a placard, with this. Everyone with kids can relate to it. I just want a cease-fire.”
The Metropolitan Police Service said that about 2,000 officers were on duty across central London throughout the weekend, double the usual number, as officials feared that violent elements, including from the far right, would surface on the fringes of the march.
The police acknowledged that while the large-scale pro-Palestinian march “did not see the sort of physical violence carried out by the right wing, we know that for London’s Jewish communities, whose fears and concerns we absolutely recognize, the impact of hate crime and in particular antisemitic offenses is just as significant.”
Hours after the demonstration ended, the police noted that they had detained a breakaway group of around 150 people who were firing fireworks and wearing face coverings.