A London tube driver sparked outrage today by urging passengers to chant pro-Palestinian slogans as they headed towards a protest in solidarity with Palestinian civilians.
Video circulating online appears to show the Central Line driver leading a chant of ‘Free, free Palestine’ for the hundreds of people packed tightly into busy train.
It comes as the Met Police said around 100,000 people had taken to the streets of London to peacefully demonstrate by 2pm on Saturday.
Others aboard the train told the driver told his passengers that he wanted to join the protest, but hadn’t been able to get the day off, before encouraging them to chant: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’
This chant is a controversial form of protest which some argue is inherently anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic – something which Palestinians and their supporters deny.
The Met Police this week issued updated guidance around the chant due to the strength of feeling which it evokes, saying officers will not be treating it as unlawful unless it is specifically used to intimidate members of the Jewish community.
Protesters during a pro-Palestine march organised by Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign in central London
Thousands took to the streets in London on Saturday to take part in peaceful protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people
A force statement read: ‘One particular chant that has been the subject of extensive discussion is ‘Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea’.
‘This is a chant that has been frequently heard at pro-Palestinian demonstrations for many years. We are well aware of the strength of feeling in relation to it.
‘While we can envisage scenarios where chanting these words could be unlawful, such as outside a synagogue or Jewish school, or directly at a Jewish person or group intended to intimidate, it is likely that its use in a wider protest setting, such as we anticipate this weekend, would not be an offence and would not result in arrests.’
As hundreds of protesters boarded the Central Line underground train at Bond Street for the short journey to Marble Arch just after midday, those onboard told that the driver announced: ‘Sorry I can’t join your protest today, I couldn’t get the day off work. But you have my full support. Join me in chanting ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.’
Amongst the passengers was Wendy Henry, who said: ‘I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The driver wanted to whip up anti-Israeli feelings, and the atmosphere turned very ugly, very quickly.
‘The noise in the carriages from the pro-Palestinian demonstrators was deafening and aggressive. The driver should have been concerned about safety for all the passengers yet he set about encouraging intimidating and hostile sloganeering.
Those on the Tube train could be seen joining in with the driver’s chants
Video circulating online appears to show the Central Line driver leading a chant of ‘Free, free Palestine’ for the hundreds of people packed tightly into busy train
‘Transport for London should launch an immediate investigation into his actions. His whole intention was to whip up mob feeling. Although I felt very angry, I wasn’t that surprised this was happening in Sadiq Khan’s London.
She continued: ‘I have lived and worked in London for over forty years and it’s fair to say I have never felt so vulnerable and isolated.’
But many of those onboard disagreed, and video footage showed the driver being cheered and applauded by passengers who appeared to be in good spirits.
Pro-Palestinian protesters in central London also chanted ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, despite the ongoing controversy around the slogan’s meaning.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously branded the slogan antisemitic and claimed that it is ‘widely understood’ to call for the destruction of Israel.
While Jewish groups including the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust, have asked prosecutors to clarify if chanting the slogan is a criminal offence.
However, those who defend the slogan describe it as a ‘long-standing protest chant’ that calls for a homeland for the Palestinian people.
The video divided opinions online too, with many social media users praising the driver as ‘amazing’ and a ‘legend.’
Others however called for the driver to be sacked, with one viewer writing: ‘This is a disgrace’.
Transport for London has been contacted for comment.