Up to 100,000 people streamed through the streets of London today, Saturday, in one of the biggest anti-war demonstrations in years.
People from across Britain, including many Muslim men and women of all ages, turned out in a collective cry of rage against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Hadji Nasir Ahmed travelled on a Stop the War coach from Doncaster while fasting for Ramadan. He told Socialist Worker, “The moment I knew I had to come and protest was when I saw those lads killed playing football on the beach. That’s bang out of order. But so much of what has happened isn’t on the media and especially the BBC. Even when kids are killed.”
There were speeches in Westminster including from Labour MP Diane Abbott and Jocelyn Hurndall whose son Tom was shot by an Israeli soldier.
The demonstration was called by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain and others. The huge crowd was young, loud and militant, with flags, placards and faces painted in Palestinian colours.
One banner carried by Jewish activists read, “It’s not kosher to support Israel”. Around 50 people marched behind the Day-Mer Turkish and Kurdish group’s banner.
As well as opposing these attacks, protesters raised broader demands for Palestinian liberation.
Roksana Ali from East Ham said, “Most governments in the world help Israel and say they are just defending themselves but against what?
“The siege must end and the borders open to give the people of Gaza a chance to live some kind of reasonable life. And our government needs to stop selling Israel weapons.”
Libby and Hayden had travelled from Hertfordshire. Libby said, "This is terror towards the Palestinians and it needs to stop. I'm in full support of their right to return and for an end to the occupation.”
The demonstration completely filled Whitehall. Even as the crowd marched off hundreds were still running to catch up, with a coach load from Yorkshire pulling up just in the nick of time.
Many were as angry with the British government as with Israel.
Faris Ali, a Palestinian living in London, said “We bring our children here today to remind them our land was robbed because of the Balfour Declaration signed by Britain. As a result we have suffered for 67 years.
“Palestinians are freedom fighters. They will not stop fighting. It's an illegal occupation and it has to go.”
Outside Downing Street, thousands chanted “shame on you” in unison.
Sairah came down on one of six coaches from St Albans. She said, “We’re angry but this isn’t enough. We need to do something here to change things there. British Muslims need to start a revolution. And it's not just Muslims—It’s about time the people of Britain stood up for humanity.
“Israel is a coward state. It only gets away with it because it’s backed by other coward states like the US and the UK.”
Demonstrations also took place in other cities, with thousands of people from across Scotland taking to the streets in Glasgow.
Protester Omar told Socialist Worker, “Every day they are being bombed, so every day we should be protesting. The attacks are getting worse, so our protests should be getting bigger.”
Henry Maitless added on behalf of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace, “We stand with Palestinians and we say clearly to the Zionists not in our name. The actions of the Israeli state are criminal and we won't under any circumstances support it.”
In London, the demonstration finished with a rally at the Israeli embassy.
Trade unionists read out messages of solidarity from NUT general secretary Christine Blower and PSC general secretary Mark Serwotka. Representatives of the NUS Black Students Campaign and other organisations backing the march also spoke.
To applause a speaker from the MAB responded to the politicians' hypocritical attacks on the Palestinian resistance. “If Britain was under occupation, all of us would be taking up arms,” he said.
“We will stand united against the crimes of the apartheid state of Israel—and against our own government that stands with the oppressor.”
Mariam Khan, the youngest councillor in Birmingham, said, “This is an international demonstration—around the world people are protesting.
"Israel said the old would die and the young would forget—but we will never forget Palestine.”