Around 800 people joined the march in east London during a day of Palestine protests across Britain (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Protests, occupations and actions for Palestine took place from Abergavenny to Nottingham, Penzance to Scunthorpe, in more than 50 locations across Britain on Saturday.

One of the biggest demonstrations was in Birmingham where up to 10,000 protesters joined the Big Birmingham Demo For Palestine. People marched from Sparkhill and Alum Rock to join together at St Martin’s Square for speeches.

As they marched, people chanted, “Ceasefire now,” and, “Shame on you Rishi Sunak,” “Shame on you Keir Starmer”.

Hamza, a Palestinian, told the rally at the end of the march, “We must never lose hope. Every retweet, every post and protest helps. It’s the least we can do living a life of privilege. We must amplify their bravery in Palestine and end the genocide in Palestine.”

Jeremy Corbyn MP told the crowd, “There are 30,000 lives already lost and when the rubble is cleared goodness knows how many more will be found. “The Palestinian people must never be left alone and that’s why we’re here today. That is why there are demonstrations all over the world.”

Up to 3,000 people marched in Bristol. After three speakers talked about the importance of a “two state solution”, a young Muslim woman got hold of the microphone. She spoke about the need for a one state solution, saying to big cheers., “We didn’t tell the South Africans you can have half.” 

And around 1,000 people marched from Batley to Dewsbury in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, and a 1,000 turned out in the Leeds. 

Around 800 people from all corners of east London took to the streets. Protesters from the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Walthamstow, Newham and Hackney joined intersecting marches organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Dimitri, a secondary school teacher from Redbridge NEU, told Socialist Worker, “Currently, the line from management at my school is that no one should speak about Palestine. 

“There’s a lot of support for Palestine among the students, especially the Muslim students at my school.” 

Dimitri added, “We collect donations for Gaza in the staff room every Friday. It’s a step to opening up conversations, and it’s a step towards challenging management’s current stance.” 

In Altab Ali park in Tower Hamlets, around 300 people gathered to hear speakers. Palestinian health worker Ameena said, “The health care system in Gaza didn’t collapse. It was murdered. 

“The only way Palestine will be free will be through our collective action. Those in power want us to believe we have no power, but we do.” 

Health workers marched a bloc on the demonstration and chanted, “One struggle. One fight. Health care is a human right.” 

Leanne Mohammed, a Palestinian who is standing against Labour’s Wes Streeting in Ilford North, spoke at the beginning of the demonstration. “With Israel’s continued bombardment, we need to keep protesting and organising. We will never forget this genocide,” she said. 

She finished her speech by starting a chant of, “No ceasefire—no vote.” There were several union banners on the demonstration. 

Protesters made their way from Altab Ali Park to Mile End Park chanting. Hundreds more, who began their demonstration with a Hackney rally, joined the protesters who had begun in Tower Hamlets.

University worker Pam said, “I applaud what the Yemenis are doing to stop boats for Palestine. And I was disgusted that Britain is now bombing Yemen.” 

Passersby who had seen the demonstration lined up on the pavement to watch the demonstration. Many joined protesters and marched with them. And many of those living in flats along the route waved Palestinian flags from their balconies.

In south London, over 200 marched after a rally from Camberwell to the Blue Fin building, where arms company BAE has its intelligence office. The march was radical and angry with chants of, “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud—turn another ship around,” and, “Globalise the intifada.” 

Palestine activists in central London interrupted a speech by Labour shadow foreign secretary David Lammy five times to demand he calls for a ceasefire now in Gaza.

They shouted “Will you condemn the genocide?” and “How many more children need to die?” as he spoke to the Fabian Society to outline the party’s foreign policy if it wins the next general election.

On the same day, hundreds marched in Leeds and in Manchester. In Brighton 150 people held a mass flash action inside the city’s Churchill Square shopping centre beginning with a leaflet drop. New forces are joining the movement.

Paisley, near Glasgow, saw its first action in support of Palestine since 7 October. In several areas pro-Palestine campaigners protested at Barclays banks. 

Barclays holds over £1 billion in shares, and provides over £3 billion in loans and underwriting to nine companies. They’re weapons, components, and military technology have been used in Israel’s armed violence against Palestinians.

In Dorchester protesters occupied the bank and then set off on a car cavalcade. The bank in Oxford closed for a while after a protest.

York campaigners gathered outside the bank with a banner saying, “Barclays funds Gaza genocide.”

Barclays will be a target for many campaigners over the next week and one of the particular themes of next Saturday’s actions.

Trafford trade unionists rally for Palestine 

Over 100 people attended a public meeting on “Ceasefire Now—What can Trade Unions, Communities and the Public Do?” in Trafford, Greater Manchester on Thursday.

The meeting was hosted by Trafford trades council and supported by the  group Trafford4Palestine that has grown out of local protests. 

Speakers included trade unionists, Friends of Al Aqsa, Greater Manchester Friends of Palestine and Stop The War Coalition. 

There were also speakers from Jewish Voice for Labour and a local Imam. There were banners from Trafford TUC, Trafford Unison, Manchester Metropolitan UCU, GM Unite Community and North West Unison Black Members. 

Speakers from the floor stressed the importance of building the movement and taking it into the unions. 

A local resident with relatives in Gaza made a very moving contribution. People left energised to build local and national protests, and the workplace day of action on 7 February. 

A lobby of the next full council meeting was also called, as the council has refused to light up the town halls for Gaza as they did for Israel after 7 October. The Labour-led council has hurriedly rushed through a new policy preventing any lighting up of buildings. 

Sue Caldwell

Further Palestine protests are set for Sunday, 21 January: 

Hastings: March, Assemble Warrior Square Gardens, St Leonards, TN37 6DF, at 1.30pm
Liverpool: Gather outside the Catholic Cathedral, L3 5TQ, marching to Derby Square
London, Herne Hill: Herne Hill Gates, Brockwell Park, SE24, 1.30pm-3pm
Reading: Outside HSBC, Broad St, RG1 2BU, 1.30pm-3pm

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