In London and across Europe, marches took place on Saturday to voice support for the Palestinian cause and solidarity with those stuck in Gaza…reports Asian Lite News
Attendees, who marched through the heart of the British capital as well as Manchester in northern England, Edinburgh in Scotland and other cities, were shadowed by a heavy police presence.
In London, demonstrators massed neared BBC News’ headquarters before an afternoon rally near Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street office and residence.
Some held Palestinian flags and placards — bearing slogans including “freedom for Palestine”, “end the massacre” and “sanctions for Israel” — as they made their way towards the end-point for planned speeches. Chants of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you” could be heard.
“I think all just people around the world, not just in Britain, must stand up and call for this madness (to end),” Ismail Patel, chairman of the Friends of Al-Aqsa campaign, said at the demonstration in the capital.
“Otherwise, in the next few days, (we) might see a catastrophe unfolding.”
The rallies come as Israel intensifies its war to destroy Hamas’ capability, relentlessly pounding the Gaza Strip and deploying tens of thousands of soldiers nearby ahead of an expected ground offensive in the enclave.
That follows last Saturday’s attack by Hamas, which saw hundreds of its fighters cross the Israeli border to take hostages and kill more than 1,000 civilians on the streets, in their homes and at a rave party.
Ahead of the London protest, the city’s Metropolitan Police Service said it would deploy more than 1,000 officers, as the events thousands of miles away reverberate in Britain and elsewhere.
Police and the government have noted a spike in UK anti-Semitic crime and incidents since the Hamas assault, while officers in Sussex, southeast England, arrested a 22-year-old woman Friday suspected of having made a speech backing Hamas.
A banned terrorist organisation in Britain, its members — or those found guilty of inviting support for it — can be jailed for up to 14 years under UK law. The Met said this week that general expressions of support for Palestinians, including flying the Palestinian flag, were not criminal offences but reiterated that supporting Hamas is a crime.
Ferouza Namaz, 34, a student from Uzbekistan, joined the London protest, arguing that civilians in Gaza are “absolutely innocent”. “Just being Palestinian does not give the rights to kill them. These appalling atrocities have been taking place for so many years,” he added.
Israel insists it does not deliberately target civilians in the Gaza Strip or other Palestinian territories.
Jeremy Corbyn, ex-leader of the main opposition Labour party — who was accused of allowing anti-Semitism to flourish during his four-year party tenure — addressed the London rally.
“If you believe in international law, if you believe in human rights, then you must condemn what is happening now in Gaza by the Israeli army,” the now-independent lawmaker said.
In London and across Europe, marches took place on Saturday to voice support for the Palestinian cause and solidarity with those stuck in Gaza.
Protesters began congregating around the BBC building at Portland Place around 11am. By midday, the crowds stretched all the way down Oxford Street.
The protest carried on into the afternoon and fireworks were let off in the crowd as supporters dispersed from Whitehall.
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the organiser of the event, said towards the end of the march that they believed 100,000 people had been in attendance.
The police suggested the total was much lower, closer to 10,000, though they admitted it was subject to change. The protests began walking towards Whitehall just after midday, making their way through Oxford Street and past Trafalgar Square before massing in front of the Cenotaph. A minute’s silence was observed outside Downing Street by for those killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
A series of speeches were delivered by pro-Palestinian supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Palestine ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot. “It is a day of solidarity and it is a day of hope,” the independent MP for Islington North told the crowd.
Frustration with the government response, as well as that of the opposition, to the conflict was a common theme among organisers and protesters.
Jamal, a British Palestinian, accused Rishi Sunak of “giving the green light to war crimes”, referring to the government’s decision to send military vessels and surveillance aircrafts to assist the Israeli efforts.
He suggested that home secretary Suella Braverman was contributing to the “dehumanisation of Palestinians” by questioning whether the display of the Palestinian flag could be considered illegal following the Hamas attacks on Israeli soil.
He expressed particular anger with Sir Keir Starmer, who earlier this week said the Israeli government was “within their right to defend herself”.