University and school students protest outside Downing Street

Workers and students took part in protests, walkouts and other actions in solidarity with Palestine on Thursday. 

It was the third workplace day of action called by Stop The War (STW) and came ahead of the national demonstration in London on Saturday. 

Hundreds of workers blocked the road leading to the BAE Systems arms factory in Lancashire, one of four actions called by the Workers For A Free Palestine group. They chanted, “The UK is complicit” and “Stop arming Israel.” 

Another 600 blockaded Eaton Mission Systems in Wimborne, Dorset, and over 100 blocked the entrance to the BAE Systems shipyard in Govan in Glasgow. 

Workers picketed US multinational arms supplier Teledyne in Shipley, Bradford, West Yorkshire. 

Striking workers at Royal London Hospital, who are members of the Unite union, used their picket lines to show solidarity with Palestine. They held up Palestine flags and chanted, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” 

Around 50 students protested at Goldsmiths University in south London. They marched around campus—then took a bus together to join a protest of up to 1,000 school and university students at Downing Street. 

Students marched from the University of the Arts and King’s College London, and school students attended with their parents. UCU university and college union members brought their banners along to the demonstration. 

Jewish anti-Zionist socialist Sophia Beach told the crowd, “There is nothing that the state of Israel does, that is in my name as a British Jew.

“Universities have tried to shut down our meetings. They try to silence us. They try to say there are two sides to this, and we need to represent them. We say there are two sides to this—the side of the oppressed and the oppressor.” 

Students at the University of Manchester (UoM) dropped a banner in the university’s engineering building that read, “UoM supports Israeli genocide.” Student Nafael told Socialist Worker, “We were trying to get people to join the school strike today at 12 in town. 

“We got our message across. Manchester, like many universities, is complicit in Israel’s genocidal policies, especially through the National Graphene Institute which aids in the construction of military aircraft.”

In Bristol, university students joined with school students who had walked out of their classrooms for a protest on College Green. Students also organised a protest at Swansea University. And students and workers at Oxford Brookes called for Israel to stop bombing Gaza— and an end to ethnic cleansing in Palestine. 

Unite union members met in Brighton City centre to demand a ceasefire. And university workers took part in a walkout and protested outside Brighton University’s School of Humanities and Social Science. 

Workers at New College in Poplar, east London, participated in lunchtime protests. At nearby Hackney College workers pushed for people to attend the national demonstration in London on Saturday. 

UCU members and students staged a walkout outside the David Hockney Building of Bradford College at lunchtime. And workers at the Civic Officers in Portsmouth held up signs that read, “Stand with Gaza.” 

Meanwhile, anti-war activists were set to protest against Labour leader Keir Starmer in Glasgow in the evening. 

Pressure from below has forced some union leaders to say they back protests. Unison this week said it “continues to encourage branches and members organising around Palestine in their workplaces and encourages them to mobilise for both national and local protests.” 

But in reality, there is very little backing, and sometimes direct obstruction. The union leaders must actively push for Palestine protests and back their members all the way when they come under attack from management or others who oppose protests.  

Join the trade union bloc on the national demonstration this Saturday. Meeting from 11.30am, corner of Queen Victoria Street and Bucklesbury (near Bank Station) 

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