Only through collective action and unwavering commitment to justice can we hope to create a society where the those who are complicit in genocide are criminalised, not those who fight against it.  

A non-violent protest in Cardiff advocating for an end to the UK’s complicity in the Genocide in Gaza turned chaotic as police targeted and arrested several activists, including a disabled individual. The following day South Wales Police also arrested a Palestinian mother and her 12-year-old child. These events have sparked widespread condemnation of the action of South Wales Police from various national pro-Palestine organisations, climate and social justice groups, unions and political parties.

The initial incident unfolded when a disabled humanitarian activist was peacefully protesting and speaking into a megaphone at a demonstration. The activist, who requires a mobility aid to walk, was suddenly attacked by several police officers. Despite his peaceful demeanour, he was targeted and forcibly detained, causing alarm among fellow protesters.

The police’s abrupt action against the disabled activist prompted an immediate reaction from the other demonstrators. As the activist was taken to the station, a group of supporters gathered outside Cardiff Bay police station, demanding his release. Around 40 activists demonstrated in the reception area, with more assembling outside. The police, however, forcibly removed most of the demonstrators from the station premises and arrested 16 of them. Video footage shows officers pushing protesters towards stone steps and dragging activists into the station, resulting in several individuals being shoved to the ground and many left with injuries.

During the early hours of Tuesday morning, the South Wales Police then showed up at a Gazan woman’s house and arrested her and her 12-year-old daughter. They held the 12-year-old in a cell separate from her mother for over 12 hours.

Targeting People of Colour and LGBTQ+ Community

The arrest of a child highlights the extent to which the police will go to suppress dissent and maintain the status quo. This is not an isolated incident but part of a broader pattern where the police act as enforcers of the establishment, targeting those who challenge systemic injustices. It is particularly alarming that the police’s actions in Cardiff disproportionately targeted people of colour, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women. The treatment of the 12-year-old girl and other activists reflects a deliberate strategy to instill fear and discourage activism among these vulnerable groups.

Racism within the police force is a pervasive issue, and the events in Cardiff are a stark reminder of this reality. The majority of those arrested were Black, ethnic minority, LGBTQ+ members, Muslim, and women, highlighting the discriminatory practices of law enforcement. This targeting is not coincidental but indicative of a deeper, systemic bias that sees marginalised communities as threats to the established order.

Undeterred by the police’s aggressive actions, activists continued their non-violent demonstration outside the police station. They remained there throughout the night, demanding the release of all detained protesters. Supporters gathered outside the police station, maintaining a vigil until every activist was freed. Their perseverance highlighted the community’s solidarity and commitment to advocating for justice and human rights.

Complicit and Anti-Democratic

The suppression of non-violent protests in Cardiff is a direct attack on our human and democratic rights. The right to assembly and protest is a cornerstone of any functioning democracy. When the state uses its police forces to intimidate, arrest, and silence activists, it is undermining these fundamental rights.

And in their violent and disproportionate crackdown on the Cardiff activists, the state reveals and brings to the forefront its own troubling complicity in the ongoing atrocities in Gaza.

By attempting to silence pro-Palestine activists, the state is aligning itself with the perpetrators of violence and oppression. This complicity is not just passive but active, as evidenced by the use of police force to suppress voices calling for justice and human rights.

The events in Cardiff demand an urgent response and a revaluation of the role of the police in our society. It is imperative to address the systemic issues that allow for the criminalization of dissent and the targeting of marginalised communities. Only through collective action and unwavering commitment to justice can we hope to create a society where the those who are complicit in genocide are criminalised, not those who fight against it.

From Manchester to Cardiff, a Wider Trend

The attack on pro-Palestine demonstrators in Cardiff must be viewed in the context of a wider crackdown on the right to protest. In Manchester, police officers brutalized several activists, breaking the rib of a young woman activist. In Oxford, they targeted their student encampment and arrested many, and in London, during a sit-in outside Westminster of thousands of demonstrators, the police rounded up tens of activists. If we do not organise to effectively counter this increasing hostility towards our right to protest, then our movement to liberate Palestine will crack under the foot of the establishment.

Activists urge the public to sign their petition and stand in solidarity with those who were unjustly arrested. By lending their voices and support, individuals can help bolster the campaign and ensure that the right to protest is respected and upheld. The fight for justice in Palestine is not just a local issue but a global one, and it requires the unwavering support and solidarity of people everywhere.

21 Jun 2024 by Lujane Abdullah

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