On the Palestine solidarity protest in Tower Hamlets, east London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

People across Britain have joined protests and sit-ins in solidarity with Palestine this week. Over 300 people staged a sit-in at Birmingham New Street on Thursday afternoon, disrupting one of the main rail stations in the West Midlands. It grew after 5pm as commuters came off trains and joined. 

Chants of, “Keir Starmer you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide,” and, “Free, free Palestine,” rang out in the concourse. When one protester started chanting, “From the river to the sea—Palestine will be free,” cops tried to stop them. But this only caused the sit-in to erupt in the same chant. 

Over 300 protested outside Tower hamlets town hall, east London, later that evening. One council worker said, “How can political leaders witness this and do nothing? I get searched all the time when I’m travelling because as Muslims we’ve been labelled as terrorists. But what about Israel—they’re the real terrorists.” 

“I work at the town hall and was threatened with disciplinary action if I was seen at this protest, with them saying it was a conflict of interest. I finish my work at 5pm so there’s no conflict of interest—bring it on, I’ll get the union to back me.” 

Sybil from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said, “We’re here to protest the onslaught in the West Bank and Gaza. Again today Israel bombed another refugee camp—we’re here to call for a ceasefire and for an end to the apartheid state.” 

A spokesperson from the Unison union said, “Trade unionists need to oppose this apartheid as we did South African apartheid. Our government is trying to criminalise our protests. We won’t be criminalised or silenced because in our thousands in our millions we are all Palestinians” 

Apsana Begum, the local Labour MP, told the crowd, “We’ve a proud history of fighting injustice in the East End—we’re here of all faiths and none, united we stand.” 

Lucy Preston, Tower Hamlets NEU education union branch secretary, said, “We call for an immediate ceasefire to ensure children have their fundamental right to a future met.” 

Mohammed, a human rights lawyer, said, “I’m here today because I can’t sleep. Our elected representatives should be voicing that there shouldn’t be babies being killed—instead they give cover to Israel.” 

He read out a letter of resignation from a UN official over Israel’s war crimes. Mohammed continued, “What stops the politicians from being human, being able to stand up in parliament to say don’t kill children in our name?” 

Tower Hamlets GP Jackie Appleby said, “On a recent visit to the West bank I saw how the checkpoints are used to make people unable to move. Palestinians die in ambulances held up at checkpoints. It’s our responsibility to keep the pressure on and be on the streets”.

The previous night over 1,000 people protested in Oxford, 400 in Hackney in east London and over 200 outside Downing Street. US vice president Kamala Harris was meeting with prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Student Deema said, “I’ve always known the history and supported Palestinians. I had felt powerless to do anything—but I’ve mobilised now with so many people getting active. This is a man-made humanitarian crisis caused by ruthless bombardment.” 

An Iraqi doctor Sara said, “I’m here supporting Palestinian rights, to stop the genocide—already so many lives have been lost. I’ll continue protesting when I’m back in Iraq.”  

Another protester said, “As Americans it’s important we’re here to point out Kamala Harris and the Biden administration need to be held accountable for their backing of this genocide.” 

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