Socialist Worker

Huge protest stands with the Palestinians

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2133

Anger on the streets of London last Saturday (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/» Guy Smallman )

Anger on the streets of London last Saturday (Pic: » Guy Smallman)


Fury has exploded onto the streets of Britain in response to Israel’s barbaric assault on Gaza. Big demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people have taken place in towns and cities across the country.

By far the largest protest took place in London last Saturday, when around 60,000 people marched. The massive turnout, for a protest called just a few days before, showed people’s anger at Israel’s attacks and their determination to stop them.

Many protesters were furious at the West’s backing for Israel. “Western leaders are responsible,” said Nepa from east London.

“They are turning a blind eye to the attacks. They talk about Hamas rockets but if someone comes into your land people will defend themselves.

“It’s up to us to speak up for the Palestinian people.”

Jules Townsend, a professor at Manchester Metropolitan university, was also marching.

“I hope this will mark the beginning of a popular movement in support of the Palestinians,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Israel and the West blame Hamas for the violence. But it doesn’t matter who leads people in Gaza, Israel will try and make an example of anyone who stands up against it.”

Some on Saturday’s demonstration were first-time protesters. Andrée from Southend was persuaded to join the protest by her friends.

Coachloads

“The news kept saying that Hamas was firing rockets, but it never said why,” she told Socialist Worker. “It made me so angry. It seems like Western leaders don’t want to know.”

Many people travelled from outside London to join the march. Over 20 coachloads of people came from Birmingham.

Arif Hussain told Socialist Worker, “I and many others are especially angry at Muslim leaders—they are doing nothing. Muslim countries should unite and demand an end to the attacks and the occupation of Palestine.”

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, told Socialist Worker, “The London demo was one of the biggest in the world and involved many young Muslims who had never been on a protest before.

“Israel is using the ‘war on terror’ to justify its attack and the wave of protests represent an important new phase of the anti-war movement.

“It’s essential that new Stop the War groups are formed and old ones revitalised—and that activists everywhere mobilise for the national demonstrations this Saturday 10 January.”

Lindsey also highlighted the protests planned for the G20 meeting of the world’s top leaders, which will take place in London on 2 April.

“When world leaders gather we want to push the issues of the ‘war on terror’, Palestine and the growing recession to the fore,” she said.

“I hope that the people demonstrating in solidarity with Gaza will be back in London to greet the G20 in April.”

Much of the news of Saturday’s demonstration in London was dominated by the actions of the police—which shocked many protesters.

Attacked

After a rally in Trafalgar Square several thousand people set out to march on the Israeli embassy in Kensington. Riot police attacked them.

Gary McNally, a student at Staffordshire university, was one of the first to arrive at the embassy. He said, “The police had riot shields and batons and I was injured in scuffles as

protesters tried to get past the police barrier to the embassy.

“I was on the floor bleeding and someone yelled at the police to help me. But they dragged me out by my feet and told me, ‘Get the fuck up—I’m not carrying you’.”

Police trapped other marchers in the Knightsbridge underpass, where riot police charged them.

One protester, with his head still bleeding after the police charge, told Socialist Worker, “Several people tried to get out of the way, and there were some women who were stood to the side, but the police battered them with shields.”

Despite this, protests are continuing at the Israeli embassy.

This Saturday’s national demonstration is a critical event. We need to urgently build this protest—and use the mood of anger that exists to create a massive, militant protest to help end Israel’s attack on Gaza.

The Stop the War Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are holding a rally against Israel’s attack on Gaza in London this Thursday 8 January. It takes place at 7.30pm at Friends House, Euston Road and speakers include Tony Benn, George Galloway MP and Tariq Ali.

For details of further meetings and protests go to

www.stopwar.org.uk

Protesters shamed Gordon Brown by throwing old shoes at  Downing Street as the march passed by

Protesters shamed Gordon Brown by throwing old shoes at Downing Street as the march passed by



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