Protesters on the march for Palestine in Dorset (Picture: Phil Marfleet)

Rage against the bankers whose cash funds Israeli genocide saw protests in many parts of Britain on Saturday.

Pro-Palestine campaigners occupied Barclays bank branches in Hastings, Peckham in south London, Brighton and other places.

Jonathan, a local campaigner in Peckham, told Socialist Worker, “We started with a protest outside the bank. And then about 30 of us occupied the branch, chanting and talking to workers and customers.

“We were there for around an hour before the police removed us. Then about 150 people went on a march around the local area, stopping at other firms that support Israel’s military such as McDonald’s. We ended up back at Barclays for a final demonstration.

“It was a positive day, bringing people together in activity, discussing ideas and preparing for next Saturday’s national demo.”   

Simon reports from Hastings, “There were about ten of us who had been part of a larger protest outside who went into the bank.  A lone police officer tried to persuade us out, but we stayed put. Then more cops arrived.

“It became apparent that Barclays is nervous about arrests. As I told the occupiers, ‘If they arrest me I will stand up in court and say they fund genocide. They don’t want that.’ We stayed over an hour until the bank’s closing time.”

Barclays holds over £1 billion in shares and provides over £3 billion in loans and underwriting to nine companies whose weapons, components and military technology are used by Israel. 

This includes General Dynamics, which produces the gun systems that arm the fighter jets used by Israel to bombard Gaza from the air. And it also includes Elbit Systems, which produces armoured drones, munitions and artillery weapons that the Israeli military uses.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and others identified Barclays as the target for this Saturday’s actions.

Over 400 people turned out in Cardiff. The march stopped at McDonaĺd’s to protest against its collaboration with apartheid Israel, and then continued to a rally outside BBC Wales. 

Around 100 people joined the protest in Whitechapel, east London. A speaker from Healthcare Workers for Palestine led chants, including, “While being charged with genocide, Barclays count their cash with pride”.

Andy, a trauma therapist in the NHS, spoke of his trip to Palestine last year. He noted the importance of not despairing and said, “In the face of such devastation we need to continue to support the resistance.” 

There were around 100 people on the protest in Nottingham, involving Palestine activists and Extinction Rebellion supporters. 

Pro-Palestine protesters occupy Peckham Barclays in south London.

Boycott Barclays, stop funding genocide!#FreePalestine #palestine #Gaza pic.twitter.com/x3qRe2Rwts

— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) January 27, 2024

Dorset PSC held a protest at the Eaton factory in Wimborne, suppliers of key parts to aircraft that are bombing Gaza.

Around 30 people gathered outside Barclays on East Ham high street in east London, flying Palestinian flags. Protester Sophia told Socialist Worker, “We want to stop the flow of money that pays for the arms that Israel is using to murder Palestinians.

Sophia added that she has been talking to people in her workplace about doing an action for 7 February. Several activists marched into Barclays chanting, “Barclays, Barclays you can’t hide we charge you with genocide.”

Well over 50 people joined the Barclays protest in Walthamstow, east London, where the mood was upbeat. The picket brought together seasoned campaigners and brand new activists. 

Organiser Asma told Socialist Worker that Friday’s ICJ ruling against Israel had boosted people’s confidence. “We feel more able to hold governments and corporations to account,” she said. 

Asma added that protesters had already turned away two Barclays customers. They had told her they were now cancelling their accounts. “We’re aiming to get over 100 people in the borough to do the same over the next month,” she added. 

Speaking at the rally, local parent Shemeen told protesters that her child was one of many prevented from wearing a Palestine badge at the Barclay primary school. “My child is not breaking any school rules by wearing a badge. And they are not breaking the law,” she said. “But I’m getting constant phone calls from the school about it. 

Tony from the Socialist Workers Party drew applause when he said the clampdown on Palestine supporters in schools was in stark contrast to the treatment of Ukraine supporters. “It’s utter hypocrisy, and it’s about imperialism, ” he said.

Most of the protests on Saturday were small. Next Saturday comes the test of whether the Palestine movement can turn out in its hundreds of thousands in London again. The movement has passed this test repeatedly, and must do so again. 

And then will come the day of workplace and student actions on Wednesday 7 February, a chance for hard-hitting solidarity with Palestinians. It’s time to step up the action against Israel and its Western imperialist backers. 

What are you doing for 7 February? Contact reports@socialistworker.co.uk
The Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Youth Movement and London Student Action for Palestine have organised a Zoom meeting on Monday, 29 January, 6pm, to coordinate action on 7 February. Meeting ID 831 8887 7131 Passcode FEB7

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