Last weekend saw hundreds of thousands spilling onto the streets in cities and towns across the world to protest against Israel’s murderous attack on Gaza.
Protests in Spain signalled a revival in the anti-war movement there. Up to 100,000 demonstrated in Barcelona while thousands more came out in Madrid, Malaga and Valencia. Around 10,000 people demonstrated in Athens.
In Britain the movement has shown a huge amount of energy and courage in the face of police brutality. London saw up to 150,000 people take part in this country’s largest ever demonstration in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
Pensioners marched alongside students from a rally in Hyde Park to the Israeli Embassy. The mood was militant.
Almaz from east London told Socialist Worker, “I’m here to demand justice for the people of Gaza. The British government has to stop its support of Israel.”
People stood in freezing temperatures to listen to speakers at the opening rally in Hyde Park. The singer Annie Lennox addressed the crowd. “Last weekend, 430 Palestinians had been killed,” she said. “One week later it’s almost 800. How many more deaths shall we see next week?”
Workers and trade unionists were well represented on the demonstration. Many unions brought along their national banners, such as the NUJ, Unison and Unite.
Swalee Emambacus, a bus worker and Unite union member from east London, attended the demonstration.
He told Socialist Worker that he was afraid Israel was about to start a new phase of atrocities in Gaza. “They have been planning this for months,” he said.
As the march passed the Israeli embassy it was clear the police were going to get heavy handed. They charged part of the crowd a number of times, causing people to run and be trampled. Ray Davies, a 79 year old anti-war Labour councillor from South Wales, was trapped at the front of the protest by the embassy.
Two policemen hit him on the head with truncheons and cut his face with the sharp edge of their heavy riot shields. Police proceeded to kick him to the ground, until he was bleeding with cuts on his nose and hands.
The police used riot shields to crush the crowd at opposite sides. This caused people to faint and panic.
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, told Socialist Worker, “The police have used violence for a second week running against people protesting against Israel’s actions. They also broke a number of agreements, including having no barriers along the pavement.
“As long as there is violence in Gaza, we will continue to protest outside the Israeli embassy – something the police are now trying to ban.
“The small amount of violence on the streets of London pales into significance compared to the violence rained down on Gaza by Israel. The violence here has been caused by the police.”
The Gaza demonstrations marked a new militancy in the anti-war movement. Many young people on the demonstration spoke about “stop and search” and the general day-to-day harassment they suffered at the hands of the police.
The mood has spread across Britain with many areas of the country holding demonstrations and mass meetings to build resistance to Israel’s onslaught.
Activists in Kirklees and Huddersfield organised a meeting of 1,500 people last week. There have also been demonstrations in Brighton, Blackburn, Aberdeen and many other cities.
The rage over Israel’s slaughter of the people of Gaza exploded onto the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday when about 15,000 people joined a Stop the War Coalition demonstration.
Students, trade unionists and families marched to the US consulate and threw their shoes to say good riddance to George Bush and protest at Israel’s murder of Palestinians.
Many young people played a central role in helping to organise the protest. On the day they ensured a lively atmosphere that expressed the fury of demonstrators.
The protest marked a turning point in the anti-war movement. For the first time, the majority of ordinary people are connecting what’s happening in Palestine to the US’s “war on terror”.
All the major unions were represented. Muslims also took part as well as supporters of the Irish struggle against the British state.
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