Friday, January 16, 2009

100,000 in London demand Gaza ceasefire

by Daphne Liddle

AROUND 100,000 protesters braved sub-zero temperatures and blistering winds last Saturday to take part in the biggest public demonstration for several years to express anger and anguish at the continuing slaughter of the people of Gaza by the invading Israeli war machine.
It was the second Saturday in a row that saw a massive demonstration on this issue in London, while other demonstrations continued in major cities throughout the world, along with local vigils and other protests.
The New Communist Central Committee banner was present among thousands of others from Palestine Solidarity, Stop the War, CND, dozens of Muslim organisations. There were also trade union and many trades council banners.
The protest began with a rally in Hyde Park, addressed by a long list of speakers, including Andrew Murray, who chairs Stop the War, Azzam Tamimi, director of Islamic Political Thought, George Galloway MP, Martin Linton MP, who founded Labour Friends of Palestine, jazz singer Annie Lennox, actor Lauren Booth, Children’s Poet laureate Michael Rosen, activist Bianca Jagger and the Reverend Garth Hewitt, canon at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
As the march flooded into Kensington High Street in order to lobby the Israeli Embassy police divided the march into sections and penned them separately into various pens, surrounded by steel barriers and ranks of riot police.
The marchers were then held in this way for almost two hours, unable to come or go and very cold, tired and in some discomfort, while riot police tried to provoke them into rioting. This was a tough time for elderly or very young demonstrators but for all their efforts to antagonise Asian youths in these penned enclosures, there was very little violent response – a few of the light wooden sticks used to hold up placards were thrown and some protesters brought old shoes they had brought for the purpose at the Israeli embassy.
At one stage police charged demonstrators, knocking some to the ground and injuring veteran campaigner Ray Davies from South Wales.
In the following mêlée the windows of a branch of Starbuck’s were broken.
Many noted that this seemed to be a return to the confrontational policing tactics of the 1980s which disappeared from London during the mayorship of Ken Livingstone.
Tory Mayor Boris Johnson last summer made a point of forcing the resignation of Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Ian Blair, who had worked closely with Livingstone. hackers
Immediately before the demonstration the website of Stop the War Coalition was forced to shut down after it was attacked by hackers.
A spokesperson said: “It’s a well-known tactic. The same thing happened to us before our anti-Iraq war protests in 2003. “We obviously can’t prove any connection but the timing would suggest that it’s a supporter of Israel. In fact, someone told me there is a firm in Israel which specialises in that sort of thing.
“At the same time that our website was under attack, a number of videos went up on YouTube which claimed the demonstration had been cancelled. Someone posted notices on our Facebook groups saying the same thing.”
Meanwhile the TUC has launched an emergency financial appeal through its TUC Aid organisation to assist the humanitarian effort in Gaza.
In the occupied north of Ireland there was a mass march against the massacres in Gaza organised by the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU) despite objections from the Democratic Unionist Party, which supports Israel.
A parade planned by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Trade Union Friends of Ireland has been cancelled.

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