Thousands of people, at scores of protests across Britain, on Saturday showed that the Palestine movement is eager to return to the streets in 2024.
Over 50 local groups marked the Day of Action for Palestine with a show of defiance. In central London, police moved to kettle a demonstration of more than 1,000 people outside the Houses of Parliament.
Protesters, organised by the Free Palestine Coalition, gathered in St James Park and planned to block nearby Westminster Bridge. But hundreds of police moved in to kettle them outside Westminster tube station.
There were several arrests, including of a member of the group Medics for Palestine. And cops seized one of the group’s sound systems. In response, demonstrators chanted, “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” and pushed back at the police.
Eventually, cops needed so many officers to pen-in the marchers that Westminster Bridge ended up being shut for several hours anyway.
While being kettled, protesters held an open mike meeting and continued chanting before dispersing. A few miles further north, around 1,000 people demonstrated in Camden, outside the offices of Keir Starmer. They demanded the Labour leader support a ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza.
In Dundee, in Scotland, Socialist Worker supporter Jim Barlow reports that a whopping 1,500 people marched. Around 1,500 also protested in Glasgow. Some 300 people blocked a Starbucks coffee shop in Cardiff, in Wales, with protesters both inside and outside the shop.
Activists target Starbucks because in the US the firm sued the coffee workers’ union for posting in support of Palestine on its social media.
Protesters in Cardiff planned to continue by marching to the city’s BBC building. In Derby, around 150 mainly young people demonstrated outside the city’s main shopping centre. Security staff there locked all the doors to prevent a repeat of last year’s shop occupation.
Some 300 people marched through Oxford. Around 150 held a vigil in Lancaster, where protesters pointed out that the number of children killed in Gaza is almost equal to the total number of children in all the county’s primary schools.
On the streets many people told Socialist Worker that they were sickened by Israeli atrocities during the holiday period – and now wanted to act. In many areas, branches of Barclays bank became the focus.
Barclays provides loans and financial services to at least nine firms that make weapons for Israel. And the high street bank holds more than £1.3 billion in shares of companies whose weapons and technology have been used against people in Gaza.
Sam protested with around 50 others outside a branch in Ilford, east London. She is an international officer in the local branch of the NEU education workers’ union and a leading Palestine activist in the area.
“There’s lots of support for Palestine in this area,” she says. “And there’s been quite a backlash against the Labour local authority which has refused to call for a ceasefire.
“My union has written to the authority to demand that pupils be allowed to discuss the war while at school—but it is refusing. It makes me think that all this talk about British democracy is just nonsense,” she said.
Protesters in Ilford ranged from long-standing activists in advanced years to teenagers, and some even younger. For more than half an hour, a young boy of about 12 years old led others in the chanting on the megaphone.
“While you’re banking, bombs are dropping,” he yelled. The bank did not see much custom. In Bethnal Green, on the borders of the east London boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, two marches of around 250 people each came together.
Together they chanted outside the local branch of Barclays for about 20 minutes before heading off towards Tower Hamlets town hall, picking up more supporters as they went.
Hackney protester Kausar said she thinks local marches are vital. “Obviously, it helps raise awareness of next week’s national demonstration,” she said. “But it also helps us raise the profile of Palestine in the community.
“And that can help us build new Palestine groups locally. Not everyone can get to a national demonstration, so doing things in the area is really important to helping them feel involved.”
The success of today’s day of action shows that the anger over Israel’s war on Palestine – and Britain’s complicity in it—has not diminished.
And when given a chance, many protesters would like the chance to do more than march. Thousands of activists are so angry that they want to cause as much disruption to the system as possible.
They are right to be furious and right to act. This Saturday’s national demonstration in central London can be massive—and it can be a springboard to further radical action.
Everyone should spend this week pushing for making Palestine protests a success.
Final details of the march on Saturday 13 January in London have not yet been announced. See stopwar.org.uk for detailsOriginal post