rs21 rounds up some of the many Palestine solidarity demonstrations that took place last weekend to call for an end to the siege of Gaza
The demonstration in central London on Saturday 21 October was huge. Estimates of up to 300,000 do not seem wide of the mark. Instead of assembling for an hour, the march left promptly at 12 noon as masses of people descended on Marble Arch. At some points, thousands of people were walking from surrounding tube stations because it was impossible to get to Marble Arch itself. Street meetings were taking place on Oxford Street, as crowds gathered around sound systems.
The demonstration was joyous but determined, with the demands for ‘ceasefire now’, ‘end the siege of Gaza’ and ‘free Palestine’ ringing out. In such a huge protest there were not enough megaphones, but crowds of people raised their voices to make themselves heard, often with chants led by young Muslim women. People clambered up scaffolding and statues to hang the Palestinian flag.
There was little space to assemble in Whitehall at the end of the demo, which continued to stream into the area for hours.
This demonstration was much bigger and broader than last week’s, in response to the escalation of the assault on Gaza. The size of the response is having an impact – politicians like Starmer are backtracking on their genocidal statements and calling for aid to be let into Gaza.
We need to force the British government to end its backing for Israeli war crimes. This will need more big protests, so everyone will be out for a national demonstration on Saturday. We should also be thinking about how we can carry out more actions like the pickets of MPs that took place on Friday.
In Stoke-on-Trent, almost 1000 people mobilised on Sunday 22 October for a Palestine Solidarity demonstration called by the newly formed Stoke PSC, alongside local mosques and various other campaigns. Beginning in the Hanley Park bandstand, speeches highlighted the colonial nature of the Israeli project, the complicity of British politicians, and the need for action beyond protest. The demonstration then proceeded to march to BBC Radio Stoke where protesters brought the media’s culpability in Israeli war crimes to the fore. One person remarked to me that this is the biggest demonstration in Stoke since 2003, while another said it was the biggest and best they’d seen in the city. It was a great stride forward in building anticolonial solidarity in this part of the world. It showed an indignant, multicultural, largely working-class movement ready to organise for Palestinian freedom.
At 5pm on Friday 20 October, over 100 people gathered in the centre of Bristol to show solidarity with the Palestinians and to call for a free Palestine. Speakers denounced the occupation by the Israeli state and criticised the Tories and Labour for their support of Israel and its bombing campaign and moves to invade the Gaza Strip.
Afterwards there was a vigil organised by Na’amod (https://naamod.org.uk/), a Jewish organisation standing against the occupation and apartheid happening in Palestine which was attended by around 60 people.
“We have lit Woolwich Town Hall white and blue in solidarity with the people of Israel,” Announced the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
Some local people called for a protest outside the town hall explaining, “Under rights of the ECHR article 10/11, we demand the council stop the display of blue lights on the town hall in their support for the terror state of Israel. We demand their immediate removal.”
About thirty people turned up at short notice on Friday afternoon. The council issued a statement during the afternoon which no longer only spoke about Israel but acknowledged the bombardment of Gaza. “The whole world is watching unimaginable horror unfold in Israel and Gaza. During such a troubling time, we must all stand with humanity and hope for peace.” We were informed the white and blue lights would not be turned on again.
This was welcomed by the protest and judged as a victory. Lots of leaflets were given out for the national march.
Several thousand people gathered in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, in solidarity with Palestinians and demanding a ceasefire, including speakers from Labour, the SNP and trade unions.