Diplomacy/International

Thousands gather in London for Palestine solidarity march

Access Bank

Thousands of protesters have gathered in central London in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Organisers estimated that more than 180,000 people were in Hyde Park for pro-Palestinian protests on Saturday.

A large crowd blocked traffic near Victoria Embankment as dozens of police officers watched on before marching to Hyde Park.

It could be one of the largest pro-Palestine demonstrations in British history.

Speeches were made by Labour MPs, anti-war campaigners and trade union members at the rally.

Protesters, calling for an urgent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, held banners and placards bearing messages reading: “Free Palestine” and “stop the war”.

They could be heard loudly chanting: “Free Palestine.”

The protest organisers, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), decided to go ahead despite the announcement of a ceasefire on Friday after a 11-day Israeli bombing campaign that killed more than 230 people and Palestinian rocket attacks that killed 12 in Israel.

Former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell addressed pro-Palestinian protesters in central London. Speaking on a stage in Hyde Park to a crowd of thousands, he said: “Yes, a ceasefire has been negotiated and we welcome a ceasefire. But let’s be clear, there will be no ceasefire in our campaign to boycott, disinvest and sanction the Israeli apartheid state.

The message is clear, we will not cease our campaign in solidarity until there is justice. So let’s make it clear, no justice, no peace.”

Organisers said on Facebook they wanted to demand that the UK government implement sanctions on Israel at the national demonstration.

“The UK government must take immediate action and stop allowing Israel to act with impunity. It must demand an end to current proceedings to evict these families, and start holding Israel accountable for all its actions, which contribute to the crime of apartheid,” they said. “In the face of Israel’s brutal crimes, we can’t remain silent, we must remain on the streets.”

Demonstrators could be seen wearing costumes, masks and face paint, while others were draped in the Palestinian flag, as they made their way from Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park.

As the crowd reached Downing Street, chants of “Boris Johnson, shame on you” rang out.

A temporary stage has been set up in Hyde Park where a number of speeches will be made this afternoon.

Protester Muktha Ali, 32, from Harrow, north-west London, said: “I’m here because this is now urgent, the Israeli occupation needs to end now, it’s been long enough.”

Another, named Jake, said: “I stand in solidarity with Palestinians, and so should everyone, no matter your nationality. It’s great to see so many people come out in their thousands to support the cause. We will win – our cause will be heard.”

Among the groups in attendance were branches of the National Education Union, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War Coalition.

Protesters have also gathered in other cities in the UK, including Bristol, Peterborough and Nottingham.

In Manchester, thousands gathered in Piccadilly Gardens for an event being run by the Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign, with a number of other groups also taking part.

Protests are also taking place in Paris, Dublin and other cities around the world.

 

The Guardian, London

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