Around 500 people joined a protest in Sheffield (Picture: Sheffield PSC)

Around 50 local actions for Palestine took place on Saturday with more planned for Sunday. The protests, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War and others, showed the determination to keep up the solidarity for those facing the horrors of Israeli assaults.

Around 800 joined the march in Leeds which included some who had taken part in the university occupation.

In Sheffield, reports Colette, “Around 500 people gathered at the amphitheatre and marched through the train station and the city centre.

“It was loud and lively with chants demanding a ceasefire and charging Sunak’s government with complicity in genocide.

“The march was decorated with Palestinian flags and banners from Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield trades councils and the NEU and Unite unions. Also there were the Green Party, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Sheffield Palestine Coalition.

“Speakers talked of the horrors of Gaza in a context of a history of British colonialism and imperialism.”

In some places, protesters targeted arms firms. Lin from Bristol reports that up to 200 people braved wind, rain and hail to protest outside Elbit Systems in Filton.

Speakers at the demonstration included Zoe Goodman, a Bristol councillor who recently resigned from the Labour Party and who now campaigns for “Palestine on the Ballot”.

Another speaker drew attention to the large number of arms firms in this part of Bristol, while others celebrated the student occupation at Bristol university.

Towards the end of the rally, there was a naming of dead Palestinian children together with a laying of small, white-wrapped bundles to commemorate these dead.

Protesters chanted, “Killed by Elbit. Killed by Israel”.

Mark reports that around 70 people joined a protest outside BAE Systems in Rochester, Kent.

The demo, called by Medway Palestine Solidarity Campaign, marched on the main gate of the factory. The plant manufactures control systems for the F-35s jets used by Israel.

Protesters lined the main road outside the factory with Palestinian flags and banners.

Many passing drivers showed support for the chants of, “Stop arming Israel. Stop bombing Gaza,” by tooting their horns.

Around  200 demonstrated in Bradford and 150 marched for 90 minutes through Huddersfield, both in West Yorkshire.

In several areas campaigners protested outside—or inside—Barclays Bank branches. 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 in its attacks on Palestinians.

This includes General Dynamics, which produces the gun systems that arm the fighter jets used by Israel to bombard Gaza. Another firm receiving funds is Elbit Systems, which produces armoured drones, munitions and artillery weapons used by the Israeli military.

In London’s East Ham protesters called out the bank’s complicity in genocide. After not even ten minutes, the staff decided to shut the bank and not let anyone else in.

Protesters kept it shut for more than an hour and chanted “Who’s funding genocide—Barclays, Barclays.” 

Zaki, who hadn’t planned to join the protest, but decided to join after seeing it, told Socialist Worker that keeping up protest is vital.

“We need to be resilient,” he said. “The Israeli state will only benefit from us going silent or stopping protests. I’ve been on the protests before and now is not the time to stop.

“The Israelis aren’t stopping their genocide. They won’t stop killing Palestinians. I can’t imagine how bad it will be if they go into Rafah.”

Jonathan from south London reports, “Great march through Peckham. More than 150 people marched up and down Peckham Rye in an atmosphere of defiance and solidarity, and we stopped at every business that Palestinians have called on us to boycott.”

Around 250 pro-Palestine campaigners held a “die-in”, where protesters lie down as if they are dead, in the centre of Hackney, east London. The protesters then marched to Gillett Square in Dalston.

Maddie blasted the inaction of trade union leaders, saying, “We’ve formed our own network, University Workers for Palestine, because our union has been awful.

“Union leaders have failed to stand up against the slaughter of Palestinians.”

Maddie added, “If a ground invasion of Rafah happens, we need immediate protests.

Diana, from Homerton hospital, spoke about Gaza’s devastated healthcare system. “Children are on the brink of death. Healthcare itself has broken down in Gaza. And Israel is attacking healthcare workers.

“The British government is complicit. We need to build on the streets and in the workplaces.

“To not speak up is to take the side of the oppressor. Demand your union branch takes a stand and find people who agree with you.

“You’ve got to find people and get organised.”

Johann, from the Acorn campaign group, attacked Joe Biden’s ceasefire proposal to the United Nations as too little and too late.

“It’s obvious bullshit from the US. The proposal wasn’t even properly calling for a ceasefire. We see through what the US is doing,” he told Socialist Worker.

And he slammed Labour as being “atrocious. I have no hope for them at all. When they get into government they will be a disaster for progressive people”.

Next Saturday will see the 11th national demonstration in London. Building for that needs to go alongside other targeted and militant actions.

Murder and torture at Al-Shifa hospital

Israel’s siege on Al-Shifa Hospital entered its sixth consecutive day on Saturday. The Gazan government media office said it holds the US responsible for Israel’s crimes against patients, workers and displaced people sheltering at the medical compound.

Al Jazeera news reported government officials saying that the Israeli army was bombing buildings inside the medical complex and engaging in acts of torture and executions.

The Israeli army has also set fire to the buildings around the hospital which has no access to water or food.

The latest figures from the Gaza health ministry, said on Saturday that Israel had killed 72 Palestinians in the past 24 hours.

Israeli action has killed at least 32,142 Palestinians since 7 October.

Arrested for “From the river to the sea” chant

Police in Manchester arrested a woman for chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and gave her bail conditions banning her from Manchester city centre or from being in a group of more than three people.

Cops arrested Masa Khawaja from Lancashire outside the offices of BNY Mellon in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, during a demonstration on 29 February. It was against the bank’s investment of more than £10 million in the Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems.

Khawaja, who is of Palestinian heritage, said she was on the microphone at the protest when a police officer approached and threatened her with arrest for chanting the words.

She ignored him, telling the Guardian newspaper, “In response, I said on the microphone, ‘We are vilified and demonised for calling for our liberation. When we say from the river to the sea, we are calling for liberation after 75 years of colonisation. How dare you come to us and say that we can’t call for our liberation and try and censor us?’

“We resumed the chanting quite deliberately, as a way of saying, ‘You’re not going to silence us because there’s no basis for you to arrest us.’”

She said less than a minute later officers dragged her to a police van. Khawaja said she was held in custody for about 13 hours before being interviewed for ten minutes at Bury police station. It was another couple of hours before she was released on bail, at around 1am.

“They said, ‘You’ve been arrested for racially aggravated public order because from the river to the sea is racially aggravated speech,’” she said. “They never said who it was directed towards, even though the solicitor asked them who were the persons supposedly being harassed or targeted. They went quiet—the police didn’t answer the question.”

She was bailed until 28 May. Khawaja is right. The best response to such repression is to redouble the number and volume of such slogans.

Thanks to all who sent reports on the protests

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