Thousands took to the streets across the country as widespread opposition to Israeli apartheid grows

Chris Nineham

Photo: Steve Eason

The movement in support of the Palestinians is back and it is back stronger and broader than ever.  Despite the ceasefire called on Thursday night, Saturday saw London’s biggest ever demonstration for Palestine.

An hour after the demonstration set off, the political heart of the capital was brought to a standstill as a continuous crowd stretched from Parliament, past Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and most of the way down Piccadilly to Hyde Park.

The demonstration was estimated at 200,000. It wasn’t just enormous, it was electric. The chanting and singing were relentless, with mini PA systems, hundreds of homemade banners, drummers and dancing. Trafalgar Square was turned into a spontaneous carnival of resistance as thousands took over the space with flags and banners, and chants and drums, before re-joining the demonstration.

When the enormous march entered Hyde Park from the South, people were streaming into the park from Marble Arch in the North, heading for the stage. The diversity of the demo was astounding and a flat contradiction to the media’s attempts to paint this as a narrow movement. There were Labour party and Momentum banners, groups of school students, and a massive turnout from the various Muslim and middle eastern communities in Britain.

There were also Jewish groups of various kinds, a group holding pensioners for Palestine signs, trade union groups, a spectrum of socialist organisations, people with Black Lives Matter placards, Columbian contingents, and, right near the head of the demonstration, a delegation of leading trade unionists carrying the ‘Trade Unions for Palestine’ banner produced by fourteen national unions.

The speakers ranged from MPs to Jewish spokespeople, from trade union leaders to Muslim representatives.  Anti-war leaders, students, musicians and performers also testified to the breadth of support for the Palestinians. As a number of speakers said, Britain is becoming one of the centres of what is now a growing global movement for Palestinian liberation that is winning over public opinion.

The demonstration was called by six organisations: the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Muslim Association of Britain, Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Forum of Britain, CND and Friends of Al-Aqsa. This is a sustained coalition between left wing movements and the Muslim community, which draws fire from those who back Israel’s occupation, evictions and military assaults on the Palestinian people. The mood of defiance on the demonstration was testimony the fact that, despite Israel’s continuing barbarity, everyone knows this movement is making headway.

As Jeremy Corbyn said to massive cheers towards the end of the rally, ‘if it hadn’t been for the Palestinians’ resistance and the global movement there wouldn’t have been a ceasefire.’ This is the anti-apartheid movement of the 21st Century, and it is starting to make history.

23 May 2021 by Chris Nineham

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