Counter-protesters clashed with officers ahead of a pro-Palestine demonstration on Armistice Day which is expected to be one of the largest political marches in British history.

Scuffles broke out as police attempted to stop a crowd of people carrying St George’s flags marching along Embankment towards Whitehall, where the Cenotaph is located, shortly after 10am on Saturday.

The group, which had been chanting “England ’til I die” pushed through the police barrier, with some shouting “let’s have them” as officers hit out with batons.

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Some people waved Union flags and St George’s flags near the Cenotaph (Jeff Moore/PA)

Further clashes with police took place in Chinatown with counter-protesters chanting: “You’re not English any more” towards officers.

Police managed to disperse the crowd, splitting them into two smaller groups which were seen running in the direction of Piccadilly Circus.

One man was arrested on suspicion of possession of a knife and another for possession of a baton.

A “large” group of counter-protesters was than detained near to Westminster Bridge.

It is understood the group of about 100 people were being held under police powers to prevent a disturbance.

Two arrests were made, including one for assaulting a police officer and a second for possession of a controlled substance.

Meanwhile, thousands of people began marching from Park Lane near Hyde Park shortly before 1pm as part of the pro-Palestinian demonstration.

The route will take them to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames.

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People during a pro-Palestinian protest in London, marching from Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall (Victoria Jones/PA)

Chants of “free Palestine” and “ceasefire now” could be heard as the protesters set off.

An Armistice Day service took place at the Cenotaph on Whitehall at 11am, which passed off peacefully with a two-minute silence being observed.

The Met Police posted on X, formerly Twitter: “While the two minutes’ silence was marked respectfully and without incident on Whitehall, officers have faced aggression from counter-protesters who are in the area in significant numbers.”

The force added that it “will use all the powers and tactics available to us to prevent” the counter-protesters from confronting the main march.

Organisers of the main demonstration calling for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel anticipate more than 500,000 people will join.

(PA Graphics)

On the eve of the mass protest, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement: “It is because of those who fought for this country and for the freedom we cherish that those who wish to protest can do so, but they must do so respectfully and peacefully.

“Remembrance weekend is sacred for us all and should be a moment of unity, of our shared British values and of solemn reflection.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman remains under pressure from all sides after accusing the police of bias when they resisted pressure to ban the pro-Palestinian march.

After her comments were widely criticised and sparked calls for Mr Sunak to sack her, Mrs Braverman on Friday expressed her “full backing” for the Metropolitan Police at a meeting with Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley.

On Saturday, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf called for Braverman to resign after violence broke out ahead of the march.

He posted on X: “The far-right has been emboldened by the Home Secretary. She has spent her week fanning the flames of division. They are now attacking the Police on Armistice Day. The Home Secretary’s position is untenable. She must resign.”

And London Mayor Sadiq Khan pinned the blame of the violence on the Home Secretary’s comments.

He posted on X: “The scenes of disorder we witnessed by the far-right at the Cenotaph are a direct result of the Home Secretary’s words. The police’s job has been made much harder.

“The Met have my full support to take action against anyone found spreading hate and breaking the law.”

The officer in charge of policing London during Saturday’s protest told the PA news agency that the force has been “clear” on how it polices protests.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “Our job is to ensure that we police without fear or favour, that we balance the rights of everybody, be that protesters, counter-protesters, or people living or coming into London.

“And our job this weekend is to ensure that people are kept safe, and that is what my focus is on.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said he had granted consent for transport police to make orders banning protests at three London railway stations so that people can travel “free from intimidation”.

The number of officers on duty in London will be double the usual amount, with 1,850 officers on Saturday and 1,375 on Sunday.

An exclusion zone is in place using metal barriers covering Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade, the Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance and other relevant areas, to prevent those on the march from entering the locations.

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Tommy Robinson speaks to police officers as he arrives at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, central London, ahead of a pro-Palestinian protest march which is taking place from Hyde Park to the US embassy in Vauxhall (Jeff Moore/PA)

The Cenotaph also has a dedicated 24-hour police presence which will remain in place until the conclusion of Remembrance events on Sunday.

The Met said the march and all speeches must end at 5pm, and a Section 60 and 60AA power will be in place covering Westminster and parts of Wandsworth and Lambeth between 10am on Saturday and 1am on Sunday.

This provides officers with additional powers to search anyone in the area for weapons, and requires people in the area to remove face coverings that are believed to be concealing their identity.

A dispersal zone will be in place covering key central London locations including Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus.