Protesters march through the streets of Weymouth on the south coast of England (Picture: Phil Marfleet)

Palestine groups across Britain responded to Rishi Sunak’s attacks on the movement by taking to the streets on Saturday.

Around 1,000 Palestine supporters marched in Birmingham to rage against Israel’s genocide and Tory Islamophobia.

Ali, the chair of Friends of Palestine in Birmingham, is disgusted by Tory Islamophobic attacks. “For me, it is ‘extremist’ that Sunak didn’t call out people like Lee Anderson, Suella Braverman, and many other right wing racist Islamophobes in his party,” he said. 

“Instead, he’s calling us—peace-loving humanitarians, calling for an end to the bloodshed—the extremists. This is the era, the times that we live in. Unfortunately, the Tory party is in the gutter with the sewage”.

But Ali insists people must defy Tory intimidation. “We should not be deterred and we should carry on because we are on the right side of history,” he told Socialist Worker.

Fatima, a young protester outraged at Labour, said, “I think George Galloway’s victory in Rochdale is fantastic. It shows the main parties are losing credibility. 

“I think it’s brilliant he won the vote. It’s sending a huge shock wave and it’s reverberating across Britain.”

But on the demo Ismail told Socialist Worker that he was more cautious. “George Galloway is good for the Palestine people and has spoken out against the system,” he said. “But he has weaknesses. He goes against Netanyahu but he doesn’t go against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But Assad has killed and murdered children.

“We can’t simply follow anyone. This isn’t just a march for Gaza, it’s a march against the system. The elite ruling class is trying to intimate us. 

“But this is not a race war or a religious war, it’’s a class war. If we fought the system together, it wouldn’t last one day.”

Protester Carol was also furious with Sunak and Starmer. She said, “Our movement has struck fear at the heart of the establishment and they’re coming down as hard as they can. We need to build the movement and make it stronger. We aren’t going to be faced down by their intimidation.

“I’ve heard that some mosques here are saying that’s why we shouldn’t protest. But that’s wrong. We need to build the movement and convince people to be coming out in even bigger numbers”.

Despite awful weather across Britain, there were many other successful protests.

Around 170 people joined a protest march in Weymouth in Dorset, in the south west of England. Phil reports, “We rallied outside McDonalds and sent in a delegation with a letter for the local franchise. It was well received by McDonalds workers and by customers.”

Down the road in Exeter, Richard reports that around 400 people joined a “march of the dead”.

In Oxford around 200 people marched down Cowley Road to the city centre. Activists report a “very determined” mood in response to Rishi Sunak’s attacks.

At the rally several people spoke about activities planned for this Friday’s workplace and college day of action. 

In Bristol, up to 150 people braved the snow to rally outside Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer. The firm makes bullets and missiles–and builds drones and combat vehicles for the Israel Defence Forces.

Several hundred people rallied in the centre of Nottingham, while around 40 people joined a car and cycle cavalcade in nearby Chesterfield.

More than 120 people joined an inaugural rally of Sutton Friends of Palestine in south London. Support came from the NEU and UCU unions, a local Labour councillor and a sixth form student who had led a school walkout.

Elsewhere in south London, around 200 people rallied in Southwark and Lambeth before marching to nearby Goldsmiths university in a show of support for the occupation there.

More than 100 people gathered for an emergency protest on Westminster Pier in central London, close to Parliament. 

Many Palestine groups decided to target Barclays bank because of its support for arms manufacturers associated with Israel’s war.

Some 30 people picketed Barclays Bank in Walthamstow, east London. There was also a small protest in Derby, where activists are preparing for banner drops tomorrow, and one in Edinburgh. 

In Portsmouth around 40 people joined a protest, with a group entering the branch while the word “Genocide” was painted on the window. 

John reports that the six cops who came to police the protest had no idea of what to do with those sitting-in at the bank.

In Scotland, some Palestine groups set to work before the weekend. Activists targeted Barclays bank in Shawlands, Glasgow, on Friday. They smashed windows, put up posters that exposed the bank’s links to weapons firms supplying Israel, and sprayed slogans inside the branch.

The group said, “Until Barclays cuts ties with these companies and stops profiting from the genocide of Palestinians, they are a legitimate target.

“Property damage is nothing compared to the suffering of the Palestinian people. Actions like this one will only spread and multiply.”

Join the Stand With Rafah! Emergency Stop the War Assembly in London on Tuesday 5 March, at 6.30pm. Details here

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