Yesterday, a large crowd gathered in central London to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Many also voiced anger towards the UK government’s decision not to support one.
The latest protest in the UK saw around 100,000 people in attendance, matching the record turnout from the previous Saturday’s pro-Palestinian march. However, there seemed to be a more tense atmosphere compared to previous demonstrations, likely due to the ongoing events in Gaza and frustration with the government’s handling of the three-week-long conflict. Israel’s aggressive actions in the distant coastal strip were also a contributing factor to the heightened tension.
Prior to the demonstration, James Cleverly, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, caused concern by stating that the plea for a cessation of hostilities “will not improve the situation”.
One of the individuals participating in the protest was a 56-year-old company director named Heff Morales. He joined in to express his disapproval of the government. He stated, “I have never felt ashamed to be British until now, and I have experienced a lot in my life!” He also shared, “The UK has taken a terrible stance by refusing to acknowledge the ongoing genocide.”
Nadia, his 56-year-old wife, was focused on a subject that appeared to have upset many at the march: the UK’s choice to abstain from voting on the UN resolution for an urgent “humanitarian truce” in Gaza on Friday. “They refused to support a ceasefire – unbelievable,” she remarked, shaking her head.
Afterwards, Jeremy Corbyn, the ex-Labour leader, spoke to the demonstrators in Parliament Square, stating: “It is a simple request for a ceasefire, especially when innocent children are losing their lives from weapons being brought into their homes.”
“It will forever be remembered as a blemish that the British government chose to abstain from voting.”
Saad Mia, 47, a resident of London, held a Palestinian flag above the large crowd and remained optimistic that a strong turnout could have an impact on the government. She expressed her belief that the government should call for a ceasefire as it represents the people and that is what the majority desires.
One of the main concerns for protesters was the current communication shutdown in Gaza, making it extremely difficult for civilians to reach out to others. Shazmin Naeem, 24, believed that this blackout was a deliberate attempt to conceal the war crimes committed by Israel. She expressed concern over the disappearance of journalists in Gaza, stating that the situation is not being properly documented and that they want the truth to be revealed.
According to her 17-year-old friend, Iqra Asim-Amin, not knowing what is happening is even more frightening.
In a different location, 36-year-old Helena Martins from southern Brazil stated that she was participating in the march to express her disapproval of the ongoing devastation in Gaza. She believes that the intention is to destroy everything and is marching in support of humanity.
During the protest, which extended from the Victoria Embankment to Parliament, demonstrators continuously shouted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, despite the dispute over its interpretation. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, has encouraged police leaders to view the chant as a call for Israel to be eliminated from existence.
Around 2:30pm, a confrontation occurred between police and demonstrators near Downing Street. Physical altercations broke out and officers instructed the protesters to disperse as they tried to regain control. The police later reported two individuals being arrested, one for attacking an officer who was subsequently hospitalized.
However, there were no similar occurrences to what had happened last weekend, where a protester was recorded shouting “jihad” at a smaller protest near the main march. Prior to yesterday’s demonstration, the Metropolitan Police made it clear that officers would now be required to step in if any protesters were to chant “jihad”.