Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gaza protest

I can't say an exact figure, but tens of thousands turned out for today's protest, more than beating my expectations - more than that, it was a very militant protest, comparable to the response to the invasion of Lebanon. The StWC estimates a turnout of about 75,000. Reportedly, between hundreds and thousands turned out for respective demonstrations in Wales, Glasgow (5,000), Manchester (3,000), Edinburgh (thousands), Leeds (800), Birmingham (300), Portsmouth (500), and Brighton (2-300), to name but a few. I am quite sure that the police are putting an insultingly low figure on the turnout for the media's consumption, but they ought to bear in mind that, apparently, policemen are no longer civilians. Unfortunately, some irresponsible elements decided to treat their footwear as Katyusha rockets, hurling leather shoes, boots and slippers at Downing Street (some footage of this follows later). Several police approached the assembled crowd on horseback and bellowed orders through loud hailers. This, predictably, produced a chorus of boos and taunting from the shoe-lobbing extremists. The rally in Trafalgar Square featured some strong speeches, including - to my astonishment - from Clare Short, who rightly pointed out the absurdity of pretending that Hamas and Israel are on an equal footing, and attacked the lies about Hamas having broken the ceasefire and being a rejectionist party. The speeches will probably be posted on Ady Cousins' Youtube account at some point, so check it for updates.

Afterward, a few thousand people embarked on a trip to Kensington, where they picketed the Israeli embassy. According to Stop the War, they were attacked by police:

George Galloway MP was among protestors on their way this
evening to a demonstration at the Israeli Embassy in
Kensington High Street when they were trapped in the Hype
Park underpass by riot police. The protestors were making
their way to the embassy following the demonstration in
Trafalgar Square this afternoon, attended by tens of
thousands protesting against Israel's bombardment of the
Gaza Strip.

Dozens of protestors, Mr Galloway and his daughter among
them, were thrown to the floor by police charges and a
number of people were injured. "It was very frightening,"
said Mr Galloway. "The police trapped us in the tunnel and
attacked us repeatedly."

Stop the War intends to make the strongest complaint to the
Metropolitan Police. "I have never seen such irresponsible
behaviour by the police on a demonstration," said Andrew
Burgin, a national officer of Stop the War Coalition.

The earlier march and demonstration calling for an end to
Israel's attack on Gaza had been entirely peaceful, as a
packed Trafalgar Square listened to speeches from singer
Annie Lennox, Clare Short MP, representatives from the
Muslim community and many others.

In case anyone should demand to know why we don't just all picket the Israeli embassy en masse, I would point out that this is exactly what is planned for next week: the demonstration will start at Hyde Park and march down to Palace Green. This movement has built up a head of steam with amazing rapidity. It is crucial to keep up the pressure on this government to stop supporting Israel, especially if a ground invasion is imminent. (UPDATE: The ground invasion has begun - time to pull out all stops.) Anyway, here are some pictures of the demo to start you off.

I can't resist adding this one, from the newspapers:

And now, here is the first of your footage, of the notorious shoe-chuckers:


And here is some video of the protest making its way toward Trafalgar Square:

More from the Heathlander here and here. Le Poireau Rouge has photographs from the demo in Paris here. Pics by Ellis Sharp here. Pics from the New York demo here. (I am told there have been really impressive demos across the US, an extremely encouraging political development that may oblige me to temper my anti-American venom in future.) Pics from huge protest by Palestinians in Israel here.