120 people gathered at Grey's Monument in the centre of Newcastle on Tuesday evening - incensed by Israeli terrorism, appalled by the blockade of Gaza and shocked by the brutal killing of peaceful humanitarian workers in the early hours of Monday morning.
There were Palestine flags and hastily-made placards. Local Turkish people were there. Quite a few people were at their first political protest of any kind; some others hadn't demonstrated since the invasion of Gaza last January. Everyone joined in the chanting: "Viva, viva Palestina", "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free".
Angry, determined, united: this protest was the embryo of the movement we need to build in the North East of England and everywhere.
Members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, supported by Stop the War Coalition activists, led the rally with a series of speeches which were both inspirational and affirmed the severity of the situation we face. Innocent people killed, attacked by armed forces, with nothing but sticks to defend themselves.
Roger Nettleship, convenor of Tyneside Stop the War, noted that this act of piracy, though tragic and unforgivable, is just the most graphic, visible part of "a wider picture of murder, illegal occupation and an apartheid regime". Ian, a student activist, talked about the ongoing campaign to get Newcastle University to divest from the arms trade, which links it to Israel.
Mahmoud Kurdi, of Newcastle's Muslim Association of Britain branch, travelled to Gaza as part of last December's Viva Palestina convoy. He spoke of the ongoing suffering of Palestinians and called for "a mass international movement, which brings all of us together in solidarity".
Enid Gordon, who has been to the occupied territories several times, spoke of the reality of life under occupation. Other activists raised demands on our own government, saying there needs to be a break in trade relations.
Alex Snowdon, chair of Tyneside PSC, urged us to take the movement that helped end South African apartheid as inspiration, calling for a new mass boycott movement.
One speaker noted the "global condemnation of Israeli state terrorism". We must all now turn that condemnation into something more durable. The next step is Saturday's national demonstration, called by the Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative, CND and Viva Palestina.
There will be a coach from Newcastle - £125 was collected at the protest rally to help fund it, and lots of people enthusiastically put their names down to go. Join us.
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