Socialist Worker

The British state’s revenge on Gaza protesters

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2188

Hundreds of thousands demonstrated against Israel’s assault on Gaza in January 2009 (Pic:» Jess Hurd/ )

Hundreds of thousands demonstrated against Israel’s assault on Gaza in January 2009 (Pic: » Jess Hurd/

Up to ten protesters faced severe jail sentences on Friday of this week for joining protests against Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008 and 2009.

Another 50 demonstrators could also be imprisoned in the coming months.

This comes after two protesters were jailed earlier this year.

Layla Lahouidek and Bana Hablegiorge, aged just 19 and 20, were jailed for 15 months for violent disorder after pleading guilty to “vandalising a branch of Starbucks” at the protest.

This time many of the accused are again under 20 years old – and almost all are Muslim.

Protesters were standing up against Israel’s assault on Gaza which killed hundreds of people.

Many were angered at the images of dead children and destroyed homes.

While the courts have pored over the actions of demonstrators, they have remained silent about the actions of the police.

On the 10 January last year, officers trapped hundreds of protesters in the Hyde Park underpass, repeatedly baton-charging the crowd.


Protesters were later “kettled” in freezing temperatures, unable to leave for up to five hours.

And riot police repeatedly crushed the crowd outside the Israeli embassy.

The police have been selective over the release of CCTV evidence to defendants.

They have only shown seconds-long snippets, isolating them from surrounding events.

Some defendants are yet to be shown the CCTV evidence being used against them.

Socialist Worker spoke to Joanna Gilmore, a researcher at Manchester University law school, who has been following the Gaza cases.

“The police have refused to release surveillance videos under the Freedom of Information Act,” she says.

“They are using the evidence for criminal cases but won’t have it used against themselves.”

Police have also refused to disclose whether undercover officers were present during the demonstrations.

Over 30 complaints have been made about police violence on the protests.

But the Independent Police Complains Commission has refused to investigate the complaints and has passed them over to the police.

And the police have dismissed all but two of the complaints.

Joanna told Socialist Worker, “Two complaints were dismissed because the officer who allegedly struck the protesters covered up his ­identification number and refused to provide it when challenged.

“The police have made themselves immune from complaints.

“The behaviour of the police has exposed the hypocrisy of the government’s ‘community cohesion’ scheme, which is meant to build good relationships between the police and the Muslim community.”


The reputation of the police has been damaged by the repeated images of brutality surrounding the G20 protests in London in April last year.

This has changed many ordinary people’s opinions of the police.

“The police want to create an image of protesters and demonstrations as violent, but their intention with these cases is to intimidate the Muslim community in particular into not demonstrating,” says Joanna.

“In the run up to the anti‑Muslim demonstration organised by the English Defence League in Manchester police greeted imams with handshakes, telling people not to defend the city against the racists.

“When Muslims do come out on the streets, the police greet them with mass arrests and brutality.”

If these young people are given prison sentences it will be a damning indictment of the racism, hypocrisy and brutality of the British state.

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Tue 9 Feb 2010, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2188
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