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Protesters who climb on war memorials face prison and a £1,000 fine under a crackdown in the wake of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, ministers will announce this week.
Perpetrators will face three-month sentences and a fine under a legal change which James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, said would punish those intent on “insulting those who paid the ultimate price for their freedom to protest”.
Last November, footage of pro-Palestinian demonstrators clambering on the Royal Artillery Memorial in London sparked widespread outrage, with Rishi Sunak describing it as “affront to our Armed Forces”.
Mr Cleverly, who is a Royal Artillery reservist, said at the time that it was “clearly wrong” and “deeply disrespectful”.
However, the incident did not result in arrests, with the individuals allowed to go on their way after coming down from the monument.
Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said that his officers were unable to take action because while it was “unfortunate” and “inflammatory in certain ways”, it was not against the law.
Defending his officers, he said: “That’s the nature of policing. It’s contentious. What the officer didn’t do was make up a law that it’s illegal to do something and make an arrest which would have been illegal, clearly.”
Following the case, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government would “look at what further measures are needed so that the police can have confidence in taking action on this”.
Now, under an amendment due to be introduced to the Criminal Justice Bill, climbing on war memorials will become a specific public order offence in England and Wales.
The change to the law will form part of a wider plan to be unveiled this week aimed at tackling disorder at protests.
Mr Cleverly said: “Recent protests have seen a small minority dedicated to causing damage and insulting those who paid the ultimate price for their freedom to protest.
“Peaceful protest is fundamental in our county, but climbing on our war memorials is an insult to these monuments of remembrance and cannot continue.
“That is why I am giving police the powers they need to ensure they have the tools to keep order and peace on our streets.”
Tackling disruptive protests has risen up the agenda because of the mass demonstrations against Israel’s invasion of Gaza in response to the Oct 7 Hamas attack.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters descended on London for another pro-Palestine march.
Some marchers were filmed chanting “Yemen, Yemen make us proud, turn another ship round” in an apparent show of support for Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.
Other demonstrators were photographed holding signs displaying anti-Semitic tropes, including one claiming that “our media, TV, radio and government are controlled by Zionists”.
Another sign claimed that “the BBC is an arm of the Zionist propaganda machine”.