By Socialist Worker journalists
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London Palestine protesters say movement has politicised them

It wasn’t a national demonstration, but the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said over 80,000 still poured onto the streets
Issue 2901
People hold a ceasefire now banner on the Palestine march in London

On the Palestine march in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestine protesters again took over the streets of central London on Saturday—this time for a regional, city-wide demonstration.

Marchers were furious at the way the West continues to back Israel’s genocidal war. And many also expressed their loathing of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

But they were buoyed by yet another big turnout for the march from Russell Square. The protest end point, Parliament Square, was completely packed for a final rally.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said that over 80,000 people had joined the march.

The demonstration was overwhelmingly young and militant. Some marchers said it was the angriest Palestine protest they’d been on this year, with loud chanting from beginning to end.

Protesters chanted, “Starmer and Sunak sitting in the tree, K I L L I N G.” And across Britain, there were many local Palestine actions and marches too, with some 500 people marching in Leeds.

Seasoned activists and new marchers in London told Socialist Worker the movement must now be ready to fight against Israel’s expansion of the war across the Middle East.

Ayesha, who has been on three demonstrations since January, worries about the “potential of the war to widen” into a fight against Iran. But, she says, “the very vocal support for Palestine from the movement has educated lots more British people”.

David, an administration worker from Edinburgh, took up the same theme. He said that despite Biden’s calls for a ceasefire, he is “still committed to having Israel as a docking station and launch pad for US imperialism”.

He slammed Labour’s complicity in Israel’s genocide, arguing that it’s because “Labour is a political party within a capitalist system”. The writing is on the wall. It’s not possible to describe Labour as a socialist party,” he said. 

Angray, a member of the UCU union, agrees. He said he “left the Labour party in October” over its support for Israel.

“I tore up my card and cancelled my subscription,” he said. “I can never see myself voting Labour again. I can’t tell the difference between Tory and Labour—they both support genocide and austerity.

“Starmer is trying to cultivate the Tory vote and he’s forgotten about working people. He’s offering them nothing.”

Atiyya, on her fourth demonstration this year, was one of many who said that Palestine had politicised them.

She attacked the US for its role in Israel’s war. “Joe Biden has made it clear that there is no ‘red line’ for Netenyahu. Even with aid workers killed there isn’t a stopping point,” she said. 

And Atiyya said that the struggle for Palestine had opened her eyes. “I’m more aware of lots of issues now having realised that everything is political,” she said.

Kitale said the war made her understand that those in charge always ignore ordinary people.

“That’s been a good wake-up call,” she said. “It’s prompted me to learn more, to read more and really educate myself about not only Palestine, but also about imperialism and colonialism.”

Several protesters said they had tried to talk directly to their local MPs and councillors but had got no response. “I emailed my MP about stopping the sales of arms to Israel,” Stephanie explained.

“I got this rubbish generic email back. It makes me think, what’s the point of having MPs that say they represent us when they don’t listen to what their constituents say?”

Frustration at the political system was shown also by interest and some support for new group Youth Demand. It emerged from the climate movement, but now also takes up the Palestine issue.

The group had recently daubed Whitehall’s Ministry of Defence building—which marchers passed by—in blood red paint.

Protester Georgia said that targeting politicians such as Keir Starmer, as Youth Demand did earlier this week, was right.

“I’m for going to MPs’ homes if the protest is peaceful,” she said. “These things get more media coverage than even our demos. They send a message that we know who’s responsible for the killings.”

And a member of Youth Demand told Socialist Worker that, although those at the top aren’t changing, “The people are changing”. They said mainstream “politics has failed us”, before adding, “Youth are demanding something new. We want real democracy through people’s assemblies.”

Many people shared the feeling that the system is working against ordinary people. Dominika, a student from the University of Arts London, said it’s vital to keep protesting. “It’s “people going out on the streets that pressures the government to shift its position,” she said. 

“We need to stop sending arms and funding to Israel.” She explained, “I’m on the streets partly because the Labour Party isn’t doing anything. They sit in parliament, and they don’t care.”

And, she added, regardless of what those at the top do, “we must continue doing what we have been doing since 7 October.

“Unless the genocide stops, we have to be out on the streets or nothing will change. Protest, protest, protest.”­­­

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