Rishi Sunak says the UK is descending into 'mob rule' because of pro-Palestine protests

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reacts as he speaks during an interview following a visit in the Siemens Mobility factory, in Goole on February 26.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reacts as he speaks during an interview following a visit in the Siemens Mobility factory, in Goole on February 26. Copyright Paul Ellis/Pool Photo via AP
By Euronews with AP
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The British prime minister has been roundly criticised for blaming protests against the war in Gaza for creating an atmosphere of intimidation.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said this week that pro-Palestinian protests calling for the end of the conflict in Gaza are threatening to replace democracy with "mob rule".

Sunak made the controversial comment during a meeting of police leaders on Wednesday, warning of a "pattern of increasingly violent and intimidatory behaviour" that's intended to "shout down free debate and stop elected representatives doing their job".

The Conservative prime minister declared that "there is a growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule. And we've got to collectively, all of us, change that urgently."

The statement alarmed human rights group Amnesty International, which condemned the prime minister's description as "wildly" exaggerating the issue and accused him of delegitimising the right to peaceful protest.

Mass protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza have been ongoing in central London since the beginning of Israel's declaration of war against Hamas. More than 30,000 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed since the beginning of the conflict, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, and many members of the Jewish community have been among those on pro-ceasefire marches, but several Jewish organisations and many lawmakers have warned of an intimidating atmosphere for Jewish Londoners. A general rise in the number of antisemitic incidents in the UK has been reported.

Tories vs London

Sunak's comment comes days after another member of the ruling Conservative Party made headlines for a dubious choice of words.

Conservative MP Lee Anderson was suspended by Sunak for refusing to apologise after he said that London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, was controlled by "Islamists" and that he had allegedly allowed his extremist "mates" to take control of the city.

Another conservative MP, Paul Scully, was also forced to explain his own comments about the alleged existence of "no-go" areas in one of the city's boroughs, Tower Hamlets.

"There are areas where there are a tiny minority of people who make people uncomfortable about not being of their religion, of their culture, who are misinterpreting their own doctrine," Scully told BBC London this week. "That's not to say Tower Hamlets itself is a no-go area."

The borough has the largest Muslim population (39.9%) of any local authorities in England and Wales, according to the council's website.

After an outcry against his remarks, Scully told BBC Radio he had expressed himself poorly, but that his overall point still stood.

"A lot of the conversation, and the vacuum that's allowed to then be filled by populists, is when prejudice builds up because of perception," he said. "There are areas of this country where there are tiny, tiny groups of people that cause people to feel uncomfortable in particular areas.

"That might be a white gang, that might be a black gang, a Muslim gang, whatever, and that then tends to write off whole communities for some people."

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