Up to 100,000 people filled the streets of central London today, Saturday, in protest at Israel’s continuing assault on Gaza.
Demonstrators chanted “Free, free Palestine,” and “David Cameron – shame on you” as they gathered at the Israeli embassy in west London. Young children held signs reading, “Israel – stop killing children like me.”
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain initiated the protest. Its size meant buses, Tubes and trains were full of Palestinian flags and banners.
Iman, who has family in Palestine, was one of the first to arrive. She told Socialist Worker, “Palestinians have been suffering for a long time. Our family in the West Bank tell us things are getting worse and worse.
“The war in Gaza needs to stop. Everyone has to make a stand.”
Esam, who is originally from Syria, joined the protest on crutches despite her poor health. She wasn’t only angry with Israel but with other Middle Eastern rulers too.
“All the Arab leaders are criminals and murderers,” she told Socialist Worker. “They only look after themselves and their families.”
Alex Kenny from the NUT union’s national executive committee told Socialist Worker, “We can’t be impartial or even handed about what’s happening in Gaza.
“We need to take sides and stand firmly with the Palestinians.”
The protest kept growing as it made its way through central London. Some people stood by the road with placards from previous demonstrations to join the march as it passed.
There was a roar of boos as the march passed Downing Street.
School student Ezra joined the protest at parliament after seeing the placards calling for a free Palestine. He told Socialist Worker, “I’ve never been on a Palestine protest before, but I will definitely go on one again.”
Speakers before and after the march stressed the importance of protesting in Britain.
Anas Altikriti from the Muslim Association of Britain told the crowd, “Thank you for making a bit of London part of Palestine.
“We are marching to Westminster, where the decision was made to give the land of Palestine to Zionists.
“Today we are standing against that decision and for a free Palestine, a place where Muslim, Christian and Jew lived side by side for centuries.”
John Gray, a member of the Unison union’s national executive committee called Israel’s actions “illegal”.
He added, “Union links with Palestine have been established over many years. The horror must end.”
Cheers erupted when it was announced that a live stream to Gaza would take place throughout the protest.
NUS Black Students’ Officer Malia Bouattia also called for an end to Israel’s “illegal siege” and said people must take to the streets to demand justice.
Ismail Patel from Friends of Al-Aqsa said Cameron is a hypocrite. “He says Israel has a right to defend itself,” he told the crowd. “We say Palestine has a right to defend itself.”
Others pointed out that the government could help people in Gaza if it wanted to. Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn noted that Chile’s government has stopped trading with Israel.
“What about our government?” he asked. “We say to our government – act in our name, not in the name of arms manufacturers.”
Other speakers brought solidarity from Jews for Justice, the TUC, the PCS and Sinn Fein. Diane Abbott and Owen Jones from the Labour Party also spoke, along with Sarah Colbourne from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others.
Protests in solidarity with Palestine took place in several other towns and cities across Britain today, including in Birmingham, Preston, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Cardiff.