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London police deploy facial recognition during Palestine and Israel protests

London police deploy facial recognition during Palestine and Israel protests

The London police have deployed facial recognition during protest actions in support of Palestine and Israel over the last weekend to identify people bearing offensive placards and banners and committing other types of offenses.

On Saturday, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other groups led a march through the city in support of Palestine while on Sunday, another rally was held in support of Israel on London’s Trafalgar Square.

Before the events, the London Metropolitan Police announced they would be using facial recognition to compare CCTV stills and images shared on social media against a database of images held on the police custody system.

During the pro-Palestine protest, a total of six people were arrested, the BBC reports, citing the police force’s social media account.

UK police forces have been ramping up the use of facial recognition during protests despite criticism from some lawmakers, non-governmental organizations and policy experts.

Since Hamas’s attacks on southern Israel on October 7, London has seen seven pro-Palestinian marches and a number of rallies supporting Israel. The police have highlighted that some of the signs, banners and chants witnessed at protests have been crossing into religiously or racially aggravated offenses, including those with antisemitic slogans and supporting Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization in the UK.

The Met Police Counter Terrorism Command has launched around 30 investigations into offenses so far, according to its statement published last Friday. Some offenses were serious enough to be dealt with under the Terrorism Act.

“These protests and the offenses connected to them have been widely reported on in the media and have been the subject of extensive discussions online,” says Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, who led the police action over the weekend. “It is really disappointing that despite this, we have continued to see people turning up carrying placards, wearing clothing or chanting slogans that, certainly by this stage, they should know will cause alarm or distress to others.”

On Sunday, six pro-Palestine activists were also arrested for attempting to stop the London Stock Exchange from opening.

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