People across Britain protested for Palestine in great numbers on Saturday—and, in many places, they were determined to do more than just passively stand in the streets.
In London’s Trafalgar Square, where organisers had called a static rally, the numbers were so large they spilled onto the road within half an hour of the assembly time. Then hundreds of those who had gathered occupied and shut the nearby Charing Cross station—with over 1,000 outside trying to join the packed concourse.
Protesters cheered as station staff had to pull down the shutters and close the station. Kara was one of the Charing Cross occupiers. She told Socialist Worker, “We have to do things like this to get the politicians to pay attention.
“We need to build a powerful and visible movement. I’m not worried about the police. What can they do when there’s this many of us?”
People are defiant. “We can’t be half-hearted when Israel is murdering the children of Gaza,” said Akhtar, a Unite union member from west London. “I want to be on the streets every day.”
Other station occupations took place in cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Leeds.
In London, protester Jess told Socialist Worker that she felt she couldn’t sit at home and watch the news anymore. “I had to come today,” she said. “I couldn’t be idle. It feels like we are watching a genocide playing out on social media. It feels unprecedented.
“I have no faith in our political system. I have no faith in the Tories or the opposition. They can get in a blender, all of them.”
Asha raged against the imperialist system that has led to such levels of barbarity. “England is built on the stealing of resources of other countries through colonialism,” she said. “It’s always the same everywhere.
“England and the West have caused genocide after genocide now I say it has to stop. Israel to me is part of this big web of imperialist powers—if it fell it would be massive.
“It would give confidence to oppressed people everywhere to get rid of their own leaders.”
Yasmin told Socialist Worker that her husband was arrested as he protested at the Israeli embassy in London in 2009. “The state wanted to make an example of him,” she said. “That’s what they do.
“But we can’t be scared by it. The best way for us to stop the repression to stop people being disciplined at work is to come together.”
Where next for the Palestine solidarity movement?
There is an explosive mood to act in solidarity with Palestine. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets on four successive Saturdays. And the numbers have grown—150,000 in London on 14 October, 300,000 on 21 October and 500,000 last Saturday.
This Saturday was smaller in London only because the main march organisers called on people to prioritise local actions—and those generally saw big turnouts. It is now crucial to build next Saturday’s march in London as a national focus and make it huge.
Being on the streets with hundreds of thousands of others, feeling the collective power of our numbers and seeing the breadth of the movement, is in itself empowering. It encourages more action. And it keeps up the pressure on politicians and the trade union leaders.
In many areas people are protesting on several days a week. There are more and more station occupations, road blockades and university and school protests.
Nobody should try to hold back or blunt the militancy of the movement. We need more such mass protests and direct action. We need rage, not politeness, revolt not deference to the usual way of doing things.
The Tories’ attempt to whip up hatred against next Saturday’s—11 November, “Remembrance Day”—should be met by pouring bigger numbers onto the streets. We need real anti-war action, not a day where imperialists pretend to care about their past victims while prosecuting new slaughters.
The movement for Palestine is not some blip or a passing mood. It is a massive social force that is changing British politics. It can make it harder for Rishi Sunak and it has shaken up Keir Starmer in a way that nothing else has done.
The last four weeks have shown how people can organise themselves and take to the streets. The marchers have defied the Tories and the police. They have made a mockery of the state’s attempt to say what people can or cannot chant and where they can go.
The state will hit back with more arrests, more Islamophobia and more attempts to divide people. All of us need to unite to defend those arrested. Building the movement as big and strong as possible, and driving forward its momentum, is the best defence against repression.
And we don’t need self-censorship and backward moves such as the suspension of Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign officers for their backing for the Palestinian resistance.
The next escalation should be workplace action. Palestinian groups and campaigners have called for a Global Shutdown for Thursday, 9 November.
Palestinian Mohammed el-Kurd said, “We must not wait for history to pass us by. Everyone, regardless of identity or sector, must heed the calls coming from the Palestinian streets and take action against genocide.”
How many deaths, how much ethnic cleansing would it take before we move into a higher plane of struggle?”
Those trade union leaders who now back the Palestinians should call for walkouts. The Palestinians can’t wait for the unions to have a consultative ballot first.
If you’re a student, try to close the campuses and blockade schools. If you’re a worker try to stop on Thursday or Friday, even for a short time. Fill the streets, stop “business as usual”. Rise up for Palestine.
Israel targets ambulances and schools
An Israeli air strike on an ambulance convoy near Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital on Thursday killed 15 people and wounded 60 others, according to health officials and aid workers.
A convoy of ambulances was transporting critically wounded patients from the hospital to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt when it was targeted in an Israeli attack.
Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry said on Friday, “We informed the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (PRCS). We informed the whole world that those victims were lined up in those ambulances. This was a medical convoy.”
The PRCS said the convoy left Al-Shifa Hospital at 16:05 local time. But it was forced to return after travelling for about 4km due to rocks and a large amount of shelling on Gaza’s coastal road heading south.
At about one kilometre from Al-Shifa Hospital, one of the ambulances belonging to the health ministry was “directly targeted” by a missile.
The other vehicles continued their journey towards Gaza’s largest medical facility. But the PRCS ambulance was struck by an Israeli missile at about two metres from the hospital gate. The attack killed 15 people and wounded 60, the PRCS said.
Al Jazeera journalist Muhammad Shehada reported, “Israel just bombed the main gate of al-Shifa medical compound where over 30,000 refugees are sheltering. Dozens killed and wounded—literal pools of blood everywhere! Multiple ambulances were damaged as they attempted to transport the critically wounded to Rafah.”
The Israeli government, baselessly claimed the ambulance was being “used by a Hamas terrorist cell”.
The Palestine Chronicle newspaper reported that Israel struck the Osama Ben Zaid school on Friday afternoon, killing 20 people and injuring dozens of others. The school was being used to house people whose homes have been destroyed by the war.
The Oxfam charity issued a statement on Friday saying it was “gravely concerned for the lives of around 500,000 Palestinians, alongside any of the more than 200 Israeli and other hostages, currently trapped in a ‘siege within a siege’ in northern Gaza”.
“Israeli forces have imposed a near-complete stranglehold on Gaza City and the northern region, effectively cutting the enclave in half from the border wall to the sea,” it said.
Oxfam also said, “Israel’s decision to deprive civilians in Gaza of items essential to their survival such as food, water, fuel, medicines, and other aid amounts to collective punishment.” It is “a violation of international humanitarian law,” its statement said.