Socialist Worker

Massive London demonstration opposes Israel's Gaza attacks

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2133

Up to 150,000 people took to the streets of London on Saturday in a mass show of solidarity with Palestinians caught under Israeli bombs in the Gaza Strip.

The London demonstration was part of a wave of outrage at Israel. More than 10,000 marched in Edinburgh. At least 30,000 protested in Paris and 100,000 in Barcelona. There were further marches in the US, Norway, Greece, Malaysia, Sweden, Bosnia, Lebanon, Thailand, South Korea and India.

The London demonstration drew families, young people and trade unionists. As the march assembled Hyde Park had a thick covering of frost. Demonstrators braved freezing temperatures to march from Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, through Notting Hill Gate, up Kensington High Street by the Israeli embassy to a rally filling the road by Kensington Gardens.

The good natured and determined march spilled across barriers to block whole roads, bringing parts of West London to a standstill. Towards the end of the rally marchers were still passing Queensway right across Hyde Park.

Police initially claimed that only 12,000 people marched (the same figure they chose for a sizable, but far smaller march last Saturday), though they later increased this to 20,000.

Many protesters stopped outside the gates to the road containing the embassy, to throw shoes.

As the numbers grew after the rally, witnesses said riot police defending the gate sprayed white clouds of gas at a section of the crowd.

Some fainted as they were overcome by the gas.

Those who attempted to escape the confrontation found their way blocked by increasingly aggressive police.

Baton wielding riot police then stormed in from a side street to split the demonstration in two. In the panic many demonstrators became crushed against a double line of police barriers that blocked off the pavement.

Police pushed back people who were attempting to cross the barriers to safety. The pressure of bodies eventually caused the barriers to give way.

Furious demonstrators then succeeded in forcing the riot police back down the side street to release those caught in the crush.

Hours of confrontations followed with police eventually driving vans into the back of the crowd, as mounted police, supported by more police reinforcements, made several charges into the demonstration.

Many of the protesters took refuge in buildings to escape the ensuing police riot. Others were chased down side streets.

As they stumbled away a number of these were set on by gangs of police. They beat several people with batons and kicked them, as they lay helpless on the ground.

A section of the crowd then set up a series makeshift barricades to stop the police charges. This action allowed people to retreat safely.

The police riot continued into the evening.

One teenager, who found refuge in a building near the embassy gates, told Socialist Worker that they were eventually allowed to leave after being searched and photographed.

This latest violent action by police follows an incident on the demonstration on Saturday of last week when police charged protesters who had been blocked in an underpass.

It marks a new phase of violent police behaviour against anti-war demonstrations that have always passed off peacefully.

The demonstration was called by the Stop The War Coalition, The British Muslim Initiative and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

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