Yesterday, a large number of people gathered in central London to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Many also expressed anger towards the UK government for not supporting this demand.
As Israel increased its military actions in the coastal strip, approximately 100,000 individuals participated in the most recent protest – equivalent to the record-breaking turnout of last Saturday’s pro-Palestinian march in the UK. One notable difference was a noticeably more tense atmosphere compared to past marches, likely due to ongoing events in Gaza and widespread frustration with the government’s handling of the three-week-long conflict.
Prior to the demonstration, James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, caused concern when he stated that appeals for a ceasefire would not improve the situation.
One of the participants in the protest was Heff Morales, a 56-year-old company director, who attended to express his disapproval of the government. He stated, “This is the first time I have ever felt embarrassed to be British, and I have been alive for a while.” He also commented, “The UK’s response has been completely unacceptable – they refuse to acknowledge the ongoing genocide.”
Nadia, his wife who is also 56 years old, was focused on a subject that had clearly frustrated numerous people during the march. The issue was 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 previous leader of the Labour party, spoke to demonstrators in Parliament Square and stated, “It’s a small request to make for a ceasefire, especially when innocent children are being killed by weapons being brought into their homes.”
“It is a lasting blemish that the British government chose to abstain from voting on that matter.”
Saad Mia, a 47-year-old resident of London, stood in the midst of a large gathering, proudly waving a Palestinian flag. Despite the overwhelming number of people around her, she remained optimistic that a strong showing at the protest could sway the government’s actions. “The government is supposed to represent us, and it should be advocating for a ceasefire,” she stated. “That’s what most people want.”
Another factor at the forefront of protesters’ minds was the ongoing communications blackout from Gaza, which has made it close to impossible for most civilians to contact the outside world. Shazmin Naeem, 24, suspected the blackout was designed to hide Israeli war crimes. “Israel has the freedom to do whatever it wants as it tries to eliminate Palestinians. Journalists in Gaza who we’ve been following have disappeared, what’s going on is totally undocumented. We want the truth to be shown.”
According to her friend, 17-year-old Iqra Asim-Amin, not knowing the truth can be more frightening.
In another location, 36-year-old Helena Martins from southern Brazil expressed her reason for marching as a way to protest against the ongoing destruction of Gaza. She believes that the intentions of those causing the destruction are to completely annihilate everything in the area. Her presence at the march is to stand up for humanity.
During the protest, which spanned from the Victoria Embankment to Parliament, demonstrators continuously shouted the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, despite the debate over its intended message. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, has encouraged police leaders to view the chant as a call for violence and the destruction of Israel.
Around 2:30 in the afternoon, there was a confrontation between police and protestors near Downing Street. Physical altercations occurred, and officers instructed the demonstrators to disperse as they tried to regain control. The police later reported two arrests, including one for assaulting an officer who was injured and taken to the hospital.
However, there were no instances of a similar occurrence as last weekend, where a protester was caught on camera chanting “jihad” at a smaller protest near the main march. Prior to the demonstration yesterday, the Metropolitan Police announced that officers would now be required to take action if any protesters chanted “jihad.”