Created: Tuesday, 26 May 2009 20:13
Written by Newcastle FRFI
Saturday 17 January - Victory to the Intifada! Newcastle!
On Saturday 17th January there was a rally at Grey's Monument in solidarity with the people of Palestine against the Israeli occupation and siege on Gaza. The rally began at around 12pm and was supported by individual Palestinian people living in the northeast, other individuals and groups including Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, the Women in Black, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! The socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party.
About 300 people attended where there were speeches interspersed with chants of 'Free, Free Palestine!' and 'Resistance is justified, when people are occupied!' One speech in particular highlighted the British governments past and continuing support for Israel, in helping with the creation of Israel, and the need to highlight Britain's and the Labour Party's role in this so that we can apply pressure here in Britain.
"The British government created the first ever Zionist military organisation, the Jewish Legion, formed as part of the British army to help it to conquer Palestine in the first world war. And from 1918 to 1948 Britain occupied Palestine. The British occupation put down all struggles for Arab independence with brutal repression, and at the same time handed out Arab land to Zionist settlers etc…Since the start of the second intifada, the uprising of the Palestinian people, in 2000, the Labour government has consistently backed Israel and blocked resolutions in the EU and UN. They have repeated over and over that Israel's violence is to be blamed on the resistance of the Palestinians. But we say that resistance is no crime – we say that resistance is justified, when the people are occupied."
When the rally finished, 150 of those gathered joined in with a militant, loud and vibrant rolling picket of companies that support Israel. It began at Lloyds TSB on Grey Street where 100 demonstrators occupied the building some carrying on the chants and handing out leaflets to Lloyds customers while others 'died' in the building, wearing bloodstained t-shirts and carrying boards with pictures of the scenes from Gaza and slogans reading 'End British support for Israel'. While the other 50 remained outside handing leaflets to passer-bys. They remained there for 20 minutes until the police came and pushed people out.
The procession then moved to Starbucks who support Israel by sponsoring fund raisers for Israel. This time the police were quicker to respond.
The procession then moved to Schuh which stocks Caterpillar footwear. Caterpillar armoured bulldozers are exported to Israel where they are used as a military tool, destroying Palestinian homes, infrastructure and agriculture and even killing civilians. Caterpillar is also involved in the construction of a separation wall which Israel has built on Palestinian land, ruled as illegal by the International Court of Justice. Contact stockists of Cat footwear and fashion brands SRX Sport and Legendary Raw to demand they stop stocking Cat products. Stockists in Newcastle include: Schuh, John Lewis, Barrats and JJB Sports.
The staff and the security guards tried to stop people entering but the demonstration got in and continued with the 'die-in' until again the police came, dragged people up off the floor and pushed them outside.
It then marched up Northumberland Street to Marks and Spencer making a lot of noise and chanting 'Boycott M&S! They support terrorists!' This time the police were ready and waiting in the entrance way so protestors sat and stood in a circle around the entrance, while others 'died', continuing the chants and speaking about how Marks & Spencer is the biggest British corporate sponsor of Israel. Marks & Spencer is not just interested in trading with Israel for profit like other companies, it is and always has been an unequivocal supporter of Zionism. As early as the 1940s M&S Chairman Israel Sieff openly advocated ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Fifty years later their language has changed but their support for Israel remained steadfast, earning M&S a Jubilee Award from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for its services to Israel.
And then to Mcdonalds which was occupied until the police man-handled people and forcibly dragged them out.
McDonalds chairman and CEO Jack M. Greenberg is an honorary director of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry. According to the Chicago Jewish Community Online (website of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago), McDonalds Corporation is a major corporate partner of the Jewish United Fund and Jewish Federation. Through its Israel Commission, the Jewish United Fund "works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and, when necessary, responds to media coverage of Israel
The spontaneous march then went back down Northumberland Street and occupied Blacket Street bringing traffic to a stand still. The police turned up again forcing people onto the pathway whilst quoting section 14 of the Public Order Act and imposing a time condition of 2 minutes on the demonstration in that area before they would start arresting people. Demonstrators then decided to move back onto the Monument.
Whilst there it was brought to light that the police had assaulted two young people on the demonstration, a boy aged 13 had his foot deliberately stamped on by police and along with his sister aged 14 were grabbed tightly around the arms and dragged down part of the demonstration. And their mother who was trying to get to her kids to make sure they were ok was also man-handled by the police.
This further angered the crowd who began chants of 'No, No, No to police harassment!' and 'Whose Streets?! Our Streets! Whose police?! Their Police!' The demonstrators then decided to march onto and picket Market Street Police station. About 30 people came to this where they were met by the heavy handedness of the police, who claimed that protestors were causing an obstruction of the pathway and so tried to move them away from the entrance. When challenged on this, as it is a public right of way and there was plenty of room for people to get passed, the police started pushing and dragging people, who refused to move, down the street, and on to the road, where they were told that they were again blocking the way! Protestors were not breaking any laws so this just highlights that the police will blag the law and try and intimidate people in an attempt to stamp out any kind of social disobedience. But chants kept on coming and there were speeches on the importance of being on the streets demonstrating our democratic rights before they are taken from us. There was another time restriction imposed but by then the demonstration had started to die down so it was decided to finish it, especially as one police officer approached two activists and pointed them out as being 'in his opinion the organisers of the demonstration' who would be arrested if anyone was still there at the end of the imposed time limit. This kind of intimidation along with the overall behaviour of the police just shows that they aren't interested in protecting the freedoms we have, but in upholding the governance of the ruling class by trying to squash resistance.
We need to keep up pressure on the British government by being out on the streets.
Victory to the Intifada! End the Israeli Occupation of Palestine! End the Siege on Gaza!