Hundreds of thousands demand a ceasefire | Photo: John Rees Hundreds of thousands demand a ceasefire | Photo: John Rees

We report some voices from the London demonstration over Palestine on Saturday

One word best captures the tenth national demonstration in solidarity with Palestine in London: defiance.

Despite Rishi Sunak’s irresponsible efforts to whip-up a climate of fear of ‘mob rule’ and the government’s counter-extremism commissioner’s absurd claim that London had become a ‘no-go zone for Jews’, over 400,000 protesters turned out to march on the US Embassy.

From every corner of the country, workers, students, pensioners and entire families from every faith and none marched united against the genocide in Gaza.

Family on the protest | Photo: Unjum Mirza

Jess was on the demonstration from start to finish ‘because I’m Jewish I need to stand up for what is right and stand up against what is wrong’.

Jess | Photo: Unjum Mirza

John Woodcock, the government’s so-called ‘independent’ advisor on political violence and disruption urged Sunak and Starmer to instruct MPs and councillors ‘not to engage with anyone’ from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign until they “cut the hate from their marches”.’

Aspana Begum | X

Among the MPs who joined the march was Apsana Begum who spoke on the all-female platform to mark International Women’s Day:

‘As International Women’s Day was celebrated yesterday all around the world, women in Gaza were being killed, added to the 9000, an under-estimate, probably, who have already had their lives snatched away from them. I ask how many of those women have been killed by UK made weapons? And for those who escaped death, they spent International Women’s Day fearing for their lives, trying to survive the brutal reality of this war on women, a term coined by the United Nations. A war on women, violence against Palestinian women, supported and facilitated by the UK and the US… Women currently in Rafah are forced to live in deplorable and sub-human conditions with the atrocity of a ground assault looming. Women facing starvation not because food is not available but because of a decision to impose collective punishment.’

Lindsey German and Charlotte Church | Photo: Mark Smith

Outside the US Embassy, Stop the War convenor, Lindsey German didn’t pull any punches in exposing US President Biden’s promises of aid with the one hand while arming Israel’s genocide with the other:

‘Just imagine what it’s like, that people are starving, you can’t get medical treatment, that your children are dying. And Joe Biden, what has he said? In two month’s time he will build a port to provide aid. How many people are going to be dead in two month’s time? And isn’t it amazing that it takes him two months to do that but he can send weapons to Israel every single day.’

She added:

‘They’re now trying to scapegoat us. They’re telling us that these demonstrations are extremist demonstrations. Someone asked me today “are you an extremist?” I have to say, if an extremist is someone who cares about children dying, who cares about genocide, who’s fed up with money spent on weapons of war, then I am proud to be an extremist.’

Protester Laura said…

‘Rishi Sunak’s intimidation is both ridiculous and disgusting. But I’m not surprised, it’s a trick power uses to discredit any opposition by smearing and demonising protesters and stoking fear and in this case especially on the back of George Galloway’s victory in Rochdale. I’ve been on these marches regularly and I have never seen any trouble. The only trouble was that caused by the EDL in November which was emboldened by Suella Braverman. It’s a pathetic and desperate attempt to smear a whole movement.’

Laura | Photo: Unjum Mirza

Laura added:

‘I’ve always been close to the Palestinian cause as someone who always identifies and sides with the oppressed. I am Sardinian and the daughter and granddaughter of people who went through two world wars – my grandfather was a partigiano, a freedom fighter – and my inspiration is taken from Gramsci who obviously came from Sardinia and who, interestingly enough, I learnt more about in Britain given how little airtime he receives in Italy. I will keep on marching as part of the movement.’

Charlotte Church | Photo: John Rees

The Welsh singer Charlotte Church joined the platform to orchestrate the protesters’ solidarity with the Palestinians with a difference. ‘Singing has been used in liberation movements for thousands of years. For time immemorial. we have been using singing and music and it has been right at the core of liberation movements,’ she said. 

Church then composed a beautiful harmony as she sang Dafydd Iwan’s Yma o Hyd over the huge crowds having arranged them in two to sing simultaneously, from the Welsh ‘Yma o Hyd’ meaning still here and from the Arabic ‘Sumud’ as a tribute to the Palestinian spirit of endurance and resilience.

Dafydd Iwan had sung his Yma o Hyd on the picket lines during the Miners’ strike in 1984/85. Forty years on, Church was singing Iwan’s song with protesters in solidarity with Palestine. This is what solidarity looks like. This is what internationalism looks like. This is defiance.

In the words of Yma o Hyd

Er dued yw’r fagddu o’n cwmpas
Ry’n ni’n barod am doriad y wawr!

Despite the blackness all around us,
we are ready for the breaking of the dawn!