Photo: Sophie Johnson Photo: Sophie Johnson

Following a terrific show of solidarity against the ‘hostile environment’, Sunday’s protest for Palestine once again made the city a hub of resistance, reports Mark Porciani

On Sunday we gathered in the spirit of international solidarity for Palestine. This is easily the biggest demonstration for Palestine I’ve attended in Glasgow. Well over 5,000 in attendance. George Square was pretty full long before the official gathering time of 1pm.

Over the course of this week, Scotland has had numerous demonstrations for Palestine, including a vigil in Glasgow. There was also a lunchtime rally in Greenock, with Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen coordinating actions on Saturday. 

There was an extra buzz and confidence in the air after events last Thursday on Kenmure Street, where hundreds of activists successfully halted the detaining of two Asian men. Many of the activists who had stayed for the duration of the stand-off with the Home Office Officials that day were in attendance to recount to others their glorious victory. That expression of multicultural resistance will shape Glasgow for a long time. 

After an hour in George Square, we marched through the City Centre down Union Street on to the Broomielaw. Then along the Clyde towards the BBC Scotland/Alba Pacific Quay complex.

In the lead-up to the protest there had been some concerns, as Glasgow was placed into Level 3 Scottish Government restrictions late on Friday afternoon. We were due to come out of a four-month Lockdown on 17 May. 

Due to conduct of gatherings of football supporters in the City “restraint and stay home” had been requested by the First Minister.

There is a lot to be said about how and why Glasgow was placed into Level 3 along with Moray. Solidarity with Palestine isn’t one of them. The postcode areas of concern triggering this decision are in the respective constituencies of Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Tory Leader Douglas Ross – the two parts of Scotland that had the highest level of movements relating to the recent elections. 

Furthermore, solidarity with Palestine shouldn’t be seen through the prism of what football team you support. We should support the Palestinians simply because it’s the morally correct thing to do. At one point, I marched with members of the Green Brigade. Always a pleasure. We shouldn’t forget that the only on-field solidarity for Palestine was by a Glasgow Rangers player.

In 2009, during the attacks on Gaza, Rangers defender Madjid Bougherua wore a black armband in a match against Celtic, and was banned for doing a similar action in the next game against Falkirk. At the time he famously stated “I would boycott playing against a team from Israel without hesitation. As a Muslim supporting the Palestinian cause, I’ll never face a team from Israel.”

Scotland are due to play Israel again in the near future. It’s important we ensure the ‘Tartan Army’ have a travel tourist boycott of fans attending the game in Israel. Given the last year, and ease of travel to Israel, attendance could be very tempting for some. Half a mile south of Kenmure Street is Hampden Park. I am hopeful that the community will be just as unhappy with the Israeli team bus driving through their city as a Home Office Immigration Van.

This isn’t the first time we have protested at the Pacific Quay over Palestine. In 2009, after Tony Benn famously defied the BBC by making a live on-air appeal for aid for Gaza on their news programme, we occupied the concourse of the BBC in Glasgow. Then, during another round of attacks on Gaza in July 2014, an emergency protest marched in an event similar to our protest now.

Sunday’s demonstration was peaceful and the right tempo for coming out of lockdown. It was loud and angry. Generations of activists going back decades came together. The BBC became a clear target. One placard at the doors to the media studio said “Fuck you BBC”. Those words then turned into a chant. 

The area surrounding the BBC in Glasgow includes the SEC Centre and other venues that will host the UN’s forthcoming COP26 conference on climate change. Preparation for that event by the local movements is clearly under way. Recently, Greta Thunberg raised concerns of a ‘virtual COP26’ taking voices away from the most vulnerable hit by the climate disaster. 

But the events of Kenmure Street and Solidarity for Palestine should be a clear message that the people of Glasgow can give a voice to all the oppressed people of the world. More importantly, come November, we will have something to say to the UN when they’re in town about the plight of the Palestinians. To save the planet, we need to demand an end to war and oppression as a key measure to successfully achieve carbon targets.

Photo: Sophie Johnson
Photo: Sophie Johnson
Photo: Mark Porciani

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