Thousands took to the streets across the country as widespread opposition to Israeli apartheid continues to grow
London – Chris Nineham
The movement in support of the Palestinians is back and it is back stronger and broader than ever. Despite the ceasefire called on Thursday night, Saturday saw London's biggest ever demonstration for Palestine.
An hour after the demonstration set off, the political heart of the capital was brought to a standstill as a continuous crowd stretched from Parliament, past Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and most of the way down Piccadilly to Hyde Park.
The demonstration was estimated at 200,000. It wasn't just enormous, it was electric. The chanting and singing were relentless, with mini PA systems, hundreds of homemade banners, drummers and dancing. Trafalgar Square was turned into a spontaneous carnival of resistance as thousands took over the space with flags and banners, and chants and drums, before re-joining the demonstration.
When the enormous march entered Hyde Park from the South, people were streaming into the park from Marble Arch in the North, heading for the stage. The diversity of the demo was astounding and a flat contradiction to the media's attempts to paint this as a narrow movement. There were Labour party and Momentum banners, groups of school students, and a massive turnout from the various Muslim and middle eastern communities in Britain.
There were also Jewish groups of various kinds, a group holding pensioners for Palestine signs, trade union groups, a spectrum of socialist organisations, people with Black Lives Matter placards, Columbian contingents, and, right near the head of the demonstration, a delegation of leading trade unionists carrying the ‘Trade Unions for Palestine’ banner produced by fourteen national unions.
The speakers ranged from MPs to Jewish spokespeople, from trade union leaders to Muslim representatives. Anti-war leaders, students, musicians and performers also testified to the breadth of support for the Palestinians. As a number of speakers said, Britain is becoming one of the centres of what is now a growing global movement for Palestinian liberation that is winning over public opinion.
The demonstration was called by six organisations: the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Muslim Association of Britain, Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Forum of Britain, CND and Friends of Al-Aqsa. This is a sustained coalition between left wing movements and the Muslim community, which draws fire from those who back Israel's occupation, evictions and military assaults on the Palestinian people. The mood of defiance on the demonstration was testimony the fact that, despite Israel's continuing barbarity, everyone knows this movement is making headway.
As Jeremy Corbyn said to massive cheers towards the end of the rally, 'if it hadn't been for the Palestinians' resistance and the global movement there wouldn't have been a ceasefire.' This is the anti-apartheid movement of the 21st Century, and it is starting to make history.
Newcastle – David McAllister
800 people returned to the streets of Newcastle in another show of the huge breadth of support the Palestinians have in our city. Organised by Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Newcastle Stop the War, the protest this time consisted of a march from Civic Centre to the Monument, which was electric. The chants of ‘free free Palestine’ and ‘we are all Palestinians’ were continuous for the entire route.
Today’s mobilisation was also significant for the presence of representatives from the trade union movement, who led the march with a ‘Trade Unionists for Palestine’ banner bearing the slogans of fourteen different unions.
The rally at the Monument was equally loud and vibrant, consisting of music and a fantastic array of speakers. Speaking for anti-racist coalition Newcastle Unites, Taj Khan made the important links between opposing racist oppression and standing with Palestine. British Palestinian Shadiya Amer gave a powerful account of the awful harassment and interrogation she has faced while trying to visit family in the West Bank, including being detained in an immigration prison. She correctly asserted that “the Nakba is still ongoing, it never ended.”
Powerful contributions were made by Jewish Labour Councillor Denise Robson and Durham MP Mary Foy, while trade union speakers added to the broad spirit of Palestine solidarity. The NEU’s Louise Atkinson recounted her experience of visiting Palestine, particularly the many hardships faced by children and teachers living under occupation. Other union speakers included Fran Heathcote from PCS, Martin Levy from Northern Region TUC, Dave Allen from Unite and Steve Cannon from UCU.
Speaking for Newcastle PSC and Newcastle Stop the War were Enid Gordon and myself respectively. Today was another powerful demonstration of solidarity with the cause of Palestinian liberation which has now entered a new phase and should be built upon.
Manchester - Karen Buckley
Manchester saw another big, lively, passionate and militant protest, rally and march for Palestine. Many people were young and female but there was a diverse cross section of people, including families with children.
It started with a rally that quickly grew in numbers to a few thousand. There were many speakers (including Jewish speakers) and throughout there were strong calls for a free Palestine.
There was then an equally passionate march around Manchester city centre with the brilliant PCS samba band providing an upbeat accompaniment.
For a time, we appeared to have taken over the city centre as the march stretched the length of main roads and shopping areas. There was much support from the many passers-by, shoppers and people sitting outside bars, which was great to see.
Support like this for Palestine is crucial as it’s clear that a ceasefire (though welcome) will not solve the dire situation there. As one of the banners said ‘Ceasefire (noun): ethnic cleansing but less bombs.’ So, it’s crucial we keep up the solidarity and large mobilisations for Palestine. We must continue to demand an end to Israeli occupation and oppression.
Bristol – Susan Newman
About 1000 gathered at the Shah Jalal Masjid, a mosque at the heart of Bristol’s multicultural Easton area, to march almost three miles into the city centre to college green, the site of Bristol’s Council House.
A sea of Palestinian flags proceeded along Stapleton road encountering great support and solidarity by passing traffic and local shopworkers. Many more joined the march as it headed into town. The crowd was multigenerational, full of families and racially diverse. The speakers at the rally were largely drawn from the Palestinian diaspora and the Muslim community.
Brighton – Ellen Graubart
Brighton and Hove PSC’s latest protest against the most recent Israeli massacres committed against the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem convened not in the centre of Brighton this time, but at the Peace statue on the Brighton and Hove seafront. It was called for Sunday 23 of May to avoid detracting from the huge demonstration that took place the previous day in nearby London.
This East Sussex event was different from the previous rallies in that there were only a few brief speeches, followed by the putting together of an art performance, which involved all of the 100 or so protesters (who used their bodies to form a Free Palestine logo), a massive Palestinian flag, and a drone. The fruits of this combined effort promise to be amazing, and will be revealed when it is shared on social media.
The rally then continued as a peaceful but noisy march into the centre of Brighton. Although the march had not been planned, the police obligingly stopped traffic at all of the intersections, and kept a very low profile except in the town centre.
The demonstration ended at the Old Steine with a few speeches, the most notable one from a young Palestinian man who had exhausted himself in London yesterday, who nevertheless was able to give a strong speech condemning Israeli apartheid while making quite clear his disgust at the attempt by the gutter press to delegitimise and smear the campaign with accusations of anti-semitism.
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