Lucy Nichols reports on protests around the country condemning the atrocities of the war in Yemen which has now been raging for five years

Lucy Nichols

“As the demonstrators marched on, chants of ‘Free Yemen’ and ‘Stop the War’ were repeated down Oxford Circus and on to the Saudi Embassy.”

Protests took place around the country this weekend to highlight and condemn the atrocities of the Yemen war, which has now been raging for five years. Hundreds of young people marched through central London in solidarity with the millions of Yemenis suffering the evils of war, in addition to cholera, famine and Covid-19.

Starting outside the BBC on Portland Place, speakers made calls for the BBC to fairly report on the horrific war: the indubitable bias of the BBC towards the government was highlighted, and demonstrators demanded that the mainstream media report on Britain’s heavy involvement in the battle between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels.

As the demonstrators marched on, chants of ‘Free Yemen’ and ‘Stop the War’ were repeated down Oxford Circus and on to the Saudi Embassy. Here protesters stopped again for more speeches, along with a brief pause to allow for a few minutes of quiet reflection and prayer – despite the obvious peaceful nature of the protest, a heavy police presence was felt along the whole route.

Photo: Lucy Nichols

This presence amped up as the protesters marched down Whitehall, and stopped across the road from Downing Street. Plenty of passing cars, buses and mopeds beeped their horns in solidarity with the protesters. Here, organisers spoke to emphasise the horrific violence of the Yemen war, and how these are affecting normal Yemenis. A minute’s silence was held to remember the many victims and many on the march prayed for those who have lost their lives. Chants then continued in both English and Arabic, but included the now very popular ‘Boris is a wasteman’, and ‘Boris Johnson’s a racist’.

From here, the plan was to march to Westminster Bridge, though after some deliberation, organisers decided to wait in Parliament Square for a group of Black Lives Matter protesters who had set off from Hyde Park earlier on.

While waiting, speakers began to highlight why it is crucial to support Black Lives Matter, and why solidarity is key in any struggle for liberty. This was met with enthusiastic applause from the demonstration. Links were made between the Yemen war and the racist, Islamophobic murder of Shukri Abdi a year ago. The energy was defiant as the Black Lives Matter protesters caught up with the rest of the protest.

The recent outbreak of protests around the nation has proven the radical attitudes held by many young people. Whether protesting for Black Lives Matter, Shukri Abdi, Palestine, or Yemen, young people – perhaps the only demographic who feel safe enough to go to large protests – have stood on the frontline, and have in many instances been the organising force behind protests tens of thousands strong. This perhaps demonstrates the disconnect felt from Parliamentary politics, but it certainly shows no sign of stopping.

05 Jul 2020 by Lucy Nichols

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