Demonstrations took place across the world yesterday calling for Palestinian liberation. Here, rs21 members report on some of the protests in cities and towns across Britain.
Tens of thousands of people marched in London yesterday to demand an end to the siege of Gaza, and freedom for the Palestinian people. In the face of Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza, and British politicians acting in lockstep to back up Israel’s ‘right’ to obliterate Palestine, tens of thousands of people stood up to demand freedom and an end to occupation.
The protest was called by a coalition of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa and others. The turnout was massive (organisers estimate 150,000) even though the demonstration was called at short notice. The demonstration marched from Portland Place to Downing Street and filled the streets with flags, flares and fireworks. The chants ‘From the river to the sea – Palestine will be free!’ and ‘Free free – Palestine!’ rang out everywhere.
Trade unions did not strongly mobilise for the march other than some branches of UCU, NEU and Unison, with NEU president Emma Rose addressing the crowd. Despite the fact that several unions are affiliated to PSC, unions have mostly not even made any statement. Rank and file activists must act to change this.
Not a single Labour MP spoke at the rally. Jeremy Corbyn, still sitting as an independent, was the only member of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs to speak. Left-wing Labour MPs remain cowed after the experience of being ordered by Keir Starmer to withdraw their support for a Stop the War Coalition statement opposing NATO in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Labour party members were told not to attend or bring party banners to this weekend’s demonstrations in a widely-leaked letter from Labour’s General Secretary, David Evans.
The BBC reported that 1,000 cops were deployed to police the march and several men were detained in Trafalgar Square. Arrests had been threatened for anyone deviating from the planned route. The Met also imposed a section 60AA which requires people to remove anything that conceals their identity, and many protestors were told to remove their keffiyehs. Met officers were also seen threatening to arrest some protestors for ‘criminal damage’ for putting up stickers. But the overall mood was defiant of the threats made by Suella Braverman, with Palestinian flags flying everywhere and loud chants of ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free’. It’s clear that this and other marches have dealt a major blow against the media and the state’s project to silence Palestine solidarity.
After a rally in Platt Fields in the south of the city, protesters marched up Wilmslow Road, through Rusholme and past the universities, to St Peter’s Square in Manchester city centre for another rally. Lots of bystanders joined the march, which at its peak was over 5,000 strong. There were lots of young children on the march, often leading the chanting. Nearly half of Gaza’s population are children. Many left groups took part, but though there were many trade unionists present, only a couple of Unite banners and a trades council banner were visible. Though there were many Labour Party members present, there was no official presence. This contrasted with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and city council leader Bev Craig speaking at a vigil for the victims of the Hamas attack earlier in the week. There was a heavy police presence, including a drone which monitored the demo from start to finish. As we passed through Rusholme a stationary bus driver was hooting his support and shaking hands with protesters. One cop intervened demanding he stop, to the derision of the crowd.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people protested in Glasgow, beginning with a rally at Buchanan steps, and then a long march to the BBC Scotland offices. Green and black flares hung above the crowd, and the chants remained furious even whilst the march continued for hours.
Scotland has blood on its hands given the extent to which its weapons industry enables Israel’s siege against Palestinians. In Glasgow, Thales builds military drones and sells them to Israel. Glasgow’s Strathclyde pension fund has over £7 million invested in companies arming Israel. These death mongers (Thales, Leonardo, Raytheon) are then permitted to do outreach in Scotland’s schools and universities. Palestine Action in Scotland are working to dismantle this deadly supply chain, they were present at the march.
The protest marched to the BBC Scotland office, where the crowd yelled ‘BBC – shame on you.’ The BBC’s recent coverage of Palestine has been complicit in manufacturing consent for the occupation’s genocide of Palestinians. As noted by Palestine Action, ‘it has only ever invited Palestinians to comment when Israelis are killed, with little regard for Palestinians killed by Israel, such as in the case of Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot who was expected to condemn Israeli deaths immediately after informing the BBC he had lost 6 family members.’
In Scotland Gaza protests were held simultaneously in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. The Edinburgh rally came close to filling the Mound Precinct next to the National Gallery – at its height there were perhaps 2,000 people present. Among the speakers one from Gaza said ‘’What is keeping me going is you!” On the first really cold day of Autumn some protestors left at the end of the speeches but around half marched to the Scottish Parliament – the march was young, angry and loud. It felt like a new generation was taking the lead.
Between 400 and 500 people turned out today to show solidarity with the people of Palestine, at very short notice. The march was organised by the local Palestinian community and supported by socialist groups, trade unions and Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The march was very lively and diverse. Speakers condemned Suella Braverman’s attempts to criminalise public support for Palestine, and supported the right of Palestinians to resist the occupation in any way they see fit. One young woman spoke of not knowing if her family in Gaza were still alive due to the total blackout imposed by the occupation.
Hundreds took to the streets in Castle Gardens, Swansea.
Around 100 people joined a protest outside Peterborough Town Hall to protest against attacks against the Palestinian population of Gaza by the Israeli military. Chants of ‘Free, free Palestine’, ‘From the river to the sea Palestine will be free’ and ‘2,4,6,8 Israel is a terrorist state’ echoed through the streets. Speakers condemned the idea of collective punishment against the civilian population following the recent attacks on Israel by Hamas. A number of speakers expressed the view that the attacks on Israel were the inevitable consequence of the repeated attacks on Palestinians and the imposition of an apartheid state. The demand from Benjamin Netanyahu for 1.1 million people in the north of Gaza to flee was compared to the Nakba of 1948, when huge numbers of Palestinians were forced from their home by Zionist militias, and many of those present felt that this amounted to ethnic cleansing. The mood of the crowd was both angry and determined and there was recognition that further larger protests will be needed in the future.
More info and resources:
Medical Aid for Palestinians: Emergency Appeal. Link.
Palestine will be free: open meeting on solidarity with the Palestinians, in London. Link.
Support Palestine Action activists on trial. Link.
Practical guide to BDS. Link.
Pamphlet | Israel: the making of a racist state. Link.