Police guard Rochdale cenotaph vandalised by pro-Palestine graffiti, as fears grow Armistice Day protest could descend into violence

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Police are guarding a Rochdale cenotaph vandalised with "Free Palestine" graffiti as fears grow that Saturday's Armistice Day event in London could descend into violence.

The monument on the city's Esplanade commemorates those who died at war

On Monday, it was reported that wreaths laid at the cenotaph were damaged, while the graffiti appeared on Tuesday afternoon.

Two teenagers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have been charged with intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance.

"Free Palestine" was scrawled across the base of the monument and green paint was daubed on the other side.

Rochdale Cenotaph graffitied with ‘Free Palestine’ ahead of Remembrance Sunday. (Credit: Twitter/@CallandDei63315)

Police community support officers have been stationed in the area to deter further incidents ahead of Armistice Day on Saturday.

Rochdale council said it had “removed and replaced a number of damaged poppy wreaths,” adding that Tuesday's graffiti incident was "totally unacceptable."

Rishi Sunak has described the desecration of war memorials as "absolutely sickening” during a visit to a school in Lincolnshire: "This weekend will be about the country coming together to pay tribute and recognise the sacrifice of so many over so many years," he said.

“That’s what I’ll be doing. I think that’s what the vast majority of this country will be doing this weekend, marking that moment with the dignity and respect that it deserves.”

The Rochdale memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the London's cenotaph on Whitehall, which is the site of the National Service of Remembrance every November.

The Prime Minister has said he will hold Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley “accountable” for his decision to greenlight a pro-Palestinian demonstration on Armistice Day.

“This is a decision that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has made," he said. “He has said he can ensure that we safeguard remembrance for the country this weekend as well as keep the public safe.

“Now, my job is to hold him accountable for that.

“We’ve asked the police for information on how they will ensure that this happens. I’ll be meeting the Metropolitan Police Commissioner later today to discuss this.

“More broadly, my view is that these marches are disrespectful and that’s what I’ll be discussing with the police commissioner later today.”