By Isabel Ringrose
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School and university students walk out for Palestine

There were walkouts in London, Birmingham, Brighton, Edinburgh and Glasgow
Issue 2883
Students and parents on the school strike and walk out for Palestine in Birmingham

Students walk out for Palestine in Birmingham

Hundreds of school and university students across Britain have joined walkouts and protests in solidarity with Palestine.

Around 250 joined a school strike in Birmingham and there were also walkouts in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

In Brighton the protest was organised by a group called Parents4Palestine Brighton. Spokesperson Saoirse said about 60 to 70 children turned up, mainly from secondary schools but also from primary schools and nurseries.

At least 350 primary and secondary school children and their parents rallied outside Hackney Town Hall in east London on Friday. They made speeches, flew Palestinian flags and held up handmade placards.

Throughout the rally people chanted, “Rishi Sunak’s a wasteman,” “From the river to sea, Palestine will be free,” and, “One, two, three, four—occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight—Israel is a terrorist state.”

Ten-year-old Thor left school to come to the protest. “I’m here for the children in Gaza,” he told Socialist Worker. “More people protesting puts on more pressure for this to stop. I’ve been to all the protests in central London too.

“I’m glad people from my school have also decided to protest. Our school hasn’t said anything about Palestine. We’ve not had an assembly.

“It makes me sad and ashamed that I live in a country that supports children and their families being killed. I can’t go to school while children are being killed. I’ll keep protesting.”

Nadine, Thor’s mother, was at the protest to “stand in solidarity with our children”. “If we say nothing, we’re part of the problem,” she said. “We know our children have a voice, so now they can make a difference. 

“Hearing the children making speeches makes me emotional. This isn’t just an Arab or Muslim issue, it’s something everyone should care about and speak up about.

“It’s a great initiative. There was a call for a protest then a WhatsApp group was set up for people to join. Parents are sharing their children’s placards, and we’re not all from the same schools. It makes you feel united.”

School student Aisha told Socialist Worker, “This is not a war. It’s ethnic cleansing. It’s not two equal sides fighting each other. Israel makes up lies too, that Palestinians rape people and kill babies. That’s what Israel is doing.

“This talk about a ceasefire is a lie too. In the days before they’ve bombed even harder—and afterwards they’re going to bomb again.

“It’s about more than just a ceasefire. Palestinians aren’t seen as human. Israel is banning them from collecting rain water and calling them animals.”

Zara added, “We want Palestine to be free. They keep saying Israel has a right to defend itself. But defend itself from what? They have one of the biggest militaries in the world.

“Israel isn’t trying to get rid of Hamas—it’s trying to get rid of Palestinians. That’s why it’s attacking people in the West Bank too. Palestine has been under attack for over 75 years—longer counting British colonialism.”

She added, “We’re told at school to be non-political and stay neutral. This isn’t two equal sides against each other. We’re allowed to fundraise for Ukraine, but not for Palestine.”

Khadija is angry that her school has done nothing. “They only started noticing when we protested,” she said. “But Muslims are stereotyped as terrorists. We stand up and fight and we’re the bad ones. It’s countries like Israel that are the terrorists.” 

We need to keep up the mass mobilisations and militancy.

‘It’s right to target Starmer’ say university students

At least 500 university students in central London took part in coordinated action.

Students at Soas, King’s College, the London School of Economics and UCL held rallies at their universities. They then marched to rally at Soas, with speeches by both students and lecturers.

The students then marched into Camden, flying Palestinian flags. They were cheered by passersby, cars and people from their windows

Haya told Socialist Worker, “We demand a ceasefire, and Palestine’s liberation. Palestinians have been tortured, killed and exiled from their own homeland for over 75 years. We must put pressure on our government to demand a ceasefire.”

Protester Tara also wants “a free Palestine”. “There’s a genocide going on in Gaza,” she told Socialist Worker. “They’re not dead by chance. Israel killed them. A ceasefire isn’t the end. We want liberation from the river to the sea.”

Throughout the action, students chanted, “No peace on stolen land,” “Free Palestine,” and, “Keir Starmer you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

Haya said the students were also protesting “to end university complicity”. “I’m a student at Soas. It has ties with Zionist organisations and universities who are funding this genocide,” she said.

“We also previously had a rally and a couple of our students got suspended for illegitimate reasons. Soas is suppressing any free speech on Palestine.”

She added, “We’re sending a message to Keir Starmer, the Labour Party, and all who abstained from demanding a ceasefire. Over 15,000 have been killed and around 5,000 of those are children. 

“They have the audacity to abstain rather than call for an end to the genocide. Shame on them.”

Tara also thinks pointing the finger at Labour is important. “As the opposition, Starmer’s supposed to be the voice against the government,” she said. “He’s done the opposite and supported what Israel does under the lie it’s self-defence. 

“It’s disgusting. He’s also the MP for most of our universities. What he does isn’t in our name.”

For Haya, a free Palestine means an end to the “occupation by the Zionist entity”. “Palestinians need to return to their homeland without killings. We will continue until that happens.”

Tara added, “Palestinians face daily violence from Israeli settlers and the state, especially in the West Bank. Hundreds there have been killed and thousands unlawfully imprisoned, basically taken as hostages.

“We want a one state solution. That means a single, democratic, secular state with Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians living with equal rights side by side without repression and apartheid.”

Palestine campaigners also staged a sit-in at Sheffield station on Friday afternoon.

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