Socialist Worker

Rolling coverage of protests at killing of Gaza Freedom Flotilla members

Issue No. 2204

14.35 London: protesters in Downing Street

14.35 London: protesters in Downing Street

17.25 London: George Galloway announced at the rally that a further convoy of aid to Gaza will be launched saying, 'On the day after Ramadan [expected to begin on 11 August] two mighty convoys one by land and one by sea will begin. We will enter together for the mightiest breach of the siege there has ever been. We will end the siege that day. This wall is now tottering we have to break it down ourselves.'

17.20 London:The London demo is estimated to be around 15,000 strong. At the rally Kevin Ovenden who was on the Freedom Flotilla, said, 'The question is not if the siege will end, but for how long it will hang on. Israel is attempting to terrorise us, but we will not be deterred.'

For an interview with Kevin Ovenden go to » Kevin Ovenden from the Freedom Flotilla: 'I saw people killed'

17.00 Edinburgh: Around 5,000 protesters gather for the closing rally, chaired by Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the Scottish TUC.

Haq Ghani, father of Hassan Ghani a journalist captured on the flotilla addressed the crowd. He spoke about the 30 bullets fired into the bodies of the dead activists in the head, the heart and the back saying, 'No other country can get away with this, Israel is a vicious, racist, apartheid state'.

Jim Malone, Scottish organiser for the Fire Brigades Union, said that the 30 firefighting kits sent from the Dundee fire brigade and confiscated on the Rachel Corrie should be used to mop up the blood of the martyrs killed last week. He also said that the Histadrut is a mouthpiece for the Israeli government and should not be recognised as brothers and sisters of the trade union movement.

16.45 London: The London march is militant, angry and has brought together thousands of people.

At the rally outside the Israeli embassy protesters turned their backs on the embassy before listening to speakers.

Seamas Milne said, 'The governments of Britain, the US and the EU firm up the siege of Gaza. Governments will not change unless we force them. While Iran is threatened with war, Israel is allowed to continue with impunity. This cannot go on, there is no justice while this goes on.'

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers union said, 'We condemn the attacks. We are shocked and horrified. We send our solidarity to those injured and those on the Rachel Corrie who are being blocked by the Israelis. The blockade stops people seeing their families and denies them their rights. We dont want more words from world leaders – we want action. Free Gaza!'

Jeremy Corbyn MP said, 'I think world opinion has changed and now there is no turning back. Onwards to the freedom of Gaza!'

16.07 Edinburgh:: Before the protest set off, Sandra White, SNP MSP, read a statement from the Scottish government calling Israel's actions utterly unacceptable and unsupportable.

The statement said that the Scottish government is calling on Israel to lift the blockade and allow aid as a matter of urgency.

Theresa McDermott, an Edinburgh activist who was captured on the Freedom Flotilla, addressed the crowd calling for immediate return of the supplies to the people of Gaza.

15.10 London:The march has moved off from Downing Street. Protester Adib from Finsbury Park in north London says, 'This isn't just about the people who were killed on the boat. My anger is about the everyday bullying with bullets by the Israeli state against the Palestinians and anyone else who dares to disagree with Israel.'

As the London march swept through Piccadilly Circus some protesters occupied Tesco against its sale of Israeli goods.

15.00 London: Sarah Colborne could not hold back her tears as she read the names of those killed on the Freedom Flotilla to the opening rally.

She was on the Freedom Flotilla when it was attacked.

Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) said that if Iran had attacked a ship belonging to a Nato member, like Turkey, we would already be at war.

She said, 'This is not just about Palestine and Israel, but integral to the logic of the war on terror.

'The whole Muslim community is treated like terrorists,' she added.

Daud Abdullah from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said, 'The 17 years of peace talks have not delivered anything. We need to change this facade. Stop the make believe. There will only be justice when the occupation is ended.'

Kanja Ibrahim Sesay, from NUS black students, said, 'It is shameful that the NUS hasnt condemned the attack and is only calling for the safe return of British citizens and an Israeli investigation.'

Tony Benn, president of the STWC, called on demonstrators not to lose heart, 'Don't allow cynics to say it's pointless to protest as nothing changes. I demonstrated against apartheid when Margaret Thatcher was calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist. Now there's a statue of him in Parliament Square and apartheid is gone.

'Israel may have had military success, but this is a political disaster.'

Betty Hunter from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) demanded to know how long it would be, before the UN and British government actually do something.

She also commented on how good it was to see the growth in trade union support for the Palestinians.

Ismail Patel from Friends of Al Aqsa was also on the flotilla. He said, 'I call on all of you to muster a force and return to Gaza in a few months and break down he blockade.

'It is shameful that countries like Macedonia and Pakistan managed to get consular representation to flotilla members who were imprisoned but Britain didn't.'

Green MP Caroline Lucas demanded an independent investigation into Israel's piracy. She said, 'The government must suspend the EU Israel association agreement that gives Israel preferential trade while it commits state terrorism. The agreement even has a human rights clause. Enough is enough!'

Activist and writer Tariq Ali said, 'This should finally make people who thought the best way to negotiate with Israel was on you knees realise they will never give you a deal.'

Eva and Alex from the flotilla said that while they had suffered it was nothing compared to the 62 years the Palestinian people had gone through.

Eva said, 'We have to resist the demonisation of our Muslim brothers and sisters. We are a movement together.'

Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob said, 'We have to tell the governmentthis is your problem. If the blockade is unjustifiable why aren't British ships breaking it? I promise you I will be on the next flotilla.'

John Rose talked about the treatment of a Palestinian MP in the Israeli parliament who criticised the action and how it showed up the sham of Israeli democracy. He called for support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Film-maker Ken Loach called the propaganda role of the BBC, 'An absolute disgrace'. He said, We need to put the BBC in the dock for being 'pro-Israeli and sycophantic'.

15.00 Edinburgh: Between 3,000 and 3,500 protesters are marching through Edinburgh in solidarity with Palestine.

Marchers are chanting, 'Israel Terrorist', 'Netanyahu Terrorist' and 'From the Rivers to the sea, Palestine will be free'

Eileen Boyle told Socialist Worker, 'People are joining us as we march. There is real anger at Israelnot just for the attack on the flotilla but for the treatment of the Palestinians and the ongoing Gaza blockade.'

14.26 London: Protester Katie James from Birmingham says, 'I used to think what was going on in Palestine was complicated. Now I see it's not – Israel are murderers that what's we are here to say.'

PCS union member Austin Harney says, 'All the people on the flotilla were doing was delivering food and aid. They were unarmed, yet Israeli forces shot them in the head. It's a violation of human rights and we need to build international pressure on Israel.'

Grace says, 'I am demonstrating today because I am a Palestinian. Britain must put sanctions on Israel and stop arming it. Israel's actions are getting worse and worse.'

14.00 London: Mahfuz from east London says, 'Were here to stop people in Gaza dying. When Palestinians fight back, they are called terrorists. But Israel can do what it wants.'

Ahmed from Leeds says, 'Were here to highlight what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Gaza. We want to show outrage at how Israel acts with impunity and yet the world remains silent. Israel must lift the blockade and there must be justice for those killed.'

Alison, a GP, says'I want the British government to stop the arms trade with Israel. I want our government to support a boycott of Israel and demand that Israel fully complies with all the UN resolutions passed about the Middle East. I was in the West Bank in November. I saw the apartheid wall and the acres of olive trees chopped down by the Israelis. The repression of the Palestinians must end.'

13.40 Conference against Islamophobia, London: Over 200 people came together in London today for a conference on Islamophobia before joining the march on the Israeli embassy over the attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

The Stop the War Coalition hosted the event entitled Stop Islamophobia: Defend the Muslim community.

The conference brought together speakers from the trade unions, Muslim organisations, journalists and activists to discuss anti Muslim racism and how to fight it.

Moazzam Begg, former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, told the conference,'My Palestinian wife has parents who were expelled by Zionism and cannot return. How many people have been killed in the war on terror? Nobody countssome people are more equal than others.

'The reality is that the people who were killed on the Freedom Flotilla have been cast as terrorists.

'Here in Britain, stop and search and 28 days detention has helped to create an atmosphere of open season against Muslims.'

The conference emphasised unity in the fight against Islamophobia.

Speakers drew the links between goverment policy, media spin and the rise of the racist English Defence League (EDL).

Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism joint secretary, told the conference,'The EDL wants to sow divisions in our towns and cities. But we have to come out and defend the Muslim community and our streets from these racists.'

Guardian journalist Seamus Milne said, 'The media has played a negative role and not just the right wing papers. Almost all of the press have been complicit with a systematic misrepresentation of Muslims.'

The conference pledged to continue the campaign and hold local meetings on Islamophobia.

13.20 London: Contingents are starting to arrive in Whitehall from around the country, making their voices heard as they arrive.

Around 100 came on two coaches from Manchester as part of the Manchester Stop the War Coalition delegation.

A Turkish student told Socialist Worker, 'We want peace in the Middle East so we've come to protest today. But we are also organising protests back in Manchester, and we'll be visiting our MPs.'

Around 80 came from Leicester in a coach organised by Friends of Al Aqsa. A young woman told SW, 'We feel passionate about what is happening. We're here to show support for our bothers and sisters in Gaza.'

12.35 news from Austria:Some 12,000 to 15,000 people marched yesterday in Vienna in protest at Israel's attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

The large majority of protesters were mobilised by Turkish organisations. This is the first time Turkish immigrant organisations, cultural associations and political parties worked together in such a broad coalition.

They were joined by Arabs and Muslims from all backgrounds and from a number of left wing organisations.

The main demands of demonstration were presented to the Austrian chancellor Faymann. He was asked to cancel his trip to Israel at the end of the month and implement sanctions against Israel and end all cooperation between the EU and Israel.

Natalie Adler, a Jewish activist who lived in Israel for many years, said in her speech that Israel must not get away with this crime.

She added that we must all continue to resist imperialism and that we had no reason to lose hope when even the Palestinians continue their struggle under such difficult circumstances.

Report by Manfred Ecker

12.28 Within the last hour, Israeli forces have boarded and seized control of the Gaza-bound aid ship, the Rachel Corrie.

Activists onboard sat on deck in a peaceful protest while troops took control of the ship which is now being taken to Israel's Ashdod port.

12.20 London: Activists from Bolton are arriving in London on a double decker bus for today's protest.

Babu Adam Zanghar from Bolton is one of the people on the coach. He was onboard the Freedom Flotilla when Israeli troops attacked and only arrived back in Bolton on Friday evening.

'I have to be here today,' Babu told Socialist Worker. 'The mission I started when I set off to Gaza wouldnt be complete unless I did.

'While we were detained there were activists around the world campaigning for our safe releaseso I had to come today to thank everybody and to show my solidarity with Palestine.'

Babu will be speaking at the rally in London later this afternoon.

12.10 Scotland: Activists in Glasgow are gathering to travel to Edinburgh for the Scottish wide protest against Israel.

'We have only just started to gather but already all our coaches are full, we have sent off 200 people,' Jonathan Shafi told Socialist Worker.

'We are trying to get more coaches and are organising people to travel by train.

'The turn out is fantasticthere are students and loads of young people, whole families and trade unionists. And more keep arriving.'

12 noon:Swedish dockworkers are to launch a week-long blockade of Israeli ships and goods arriving in protest at the attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

Swedish Port Workers Union spokesperson Peter Annerback said workers will refuse to handle Israeli goods and ships during the 15-24 June action.

The union has about 1,500 members and supports Ship to Gaza, which took part in the flotilla.

It said: 'The reason for the blockade is the unprecedented criminal attack on the peaceful ship convoy'.

11:34 Auckland, New Zealand: Protesters have taken to the streets marching on the US consulate in Auckland before burning the American and Israeli flags.

'No one's going to listen. We try to speak but no one listens. No one wants to listen,' said one protestor.

Protesters also gathered in Christchurch and Wellington.

Veteran protester John Minto says 'New Zealand needs to apply the same pressure it did towards South Africa. The most important pressure we can put on is to close the Israeli embassy in Wellington and to stop the programme that gives a visa free status to young Israelis coming into New Zealand.'

11.30 Malaysia:Thousands of Malaysians protested on Friday outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur over Israel's attack on an aid flotilla heading for Gaza. They called on US president Barack Obama to act immediately against Israel and for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted.

After Friday prayers, some 10,000 people joined political parties and civic groups in the protest.

The protest ended peacefully after almost two hours. But many have vowed to return to the streets again if the US does not act.

11.27 Sydney, Australia: Thousands of demonstrators flocked to the town hall on Saturday to demonstrate against Israel's lethal raid on the Freedom Flotilla. It is the second demonstration this week.

The protest included many people from Sydney's large Turkish and Lebanese communities.

Protesters chanted, 'Down, Down Israel and Free, Free Gaza'.

Huseyin Erbis, was part of the protests. 'We want the world to realise that Israel thinks they can do whatever they want, but we want to be treated as humans,' he said.

Izzet Anmak, who is Auburn City Council's deputy mayor, read out the names of those killed during Monday's raid on the aid flotilla.

Earlier in the day, a protest was held at the US consulate in Sydney's Martin Place.

Other protests took place in Perth and Canberra.

10.41: A Scottish activist who was caught up in the storming of the Gaza aid flotilla has spoken of her horrendous ordeal.

Postal worker Theresa McDermott, from Edinburgh, was on the Challenger, one of the boats in the convoy which was taken over by commandos in a deadly attack early on Monday.

She has now arrived home after being held in an Israeli prison.

Theresa McDermott said, 'It was needless brutality. We had to listen as they fired round after round of ammo, killing innocent people.

'We were telling them they had an obligation to the people of Gaza to let us in. But they wouldnt listen and I even had a cocked gun pointed to my head.'

But she said the experience would not deter her from returning.

She told a newspaper: 'It was a horrendous four days. But it just makes me more determined to get back out there.' will today bring you instant news from the demonstrations in protest at the killing of at least nine people on the Freedom Flotilla by the Israeli state.

As well as the main demonstration in London we will also have news from the Edinburgh protest and regional demos. We also hope to have coverage of international protests.

There will also be news from the demonstrations against the Welsh Defence League.

Check back here regularly, but best of all join the protests! The London demo assembles at 1.30pm at Downing Street, and the Edinburgh one at 2pm at the foot of The Mound, Princes Street.

Anger against Israel on the Edinburgh demo  (Pic: Eileen Boyle)

Anger against Israel on the Edinburgh demo (Pic: Eileen Boyle)

A bus became part of the Downing Street demo!

A bus became part of the Downing Street demo!

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Sat 5 Jun 2010, 10:37 BST
Issue No. 2204
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