British police try to sabotage meetings supporting Palestine

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Meetings in solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada are coming under increasing scrutiny from the British police.

On 27 October, FRFI hosted a meeting at the Compass pub in north London to mark ten years of the Intifada. The leaflet advertised two Palestinian speakers. The day before the meeting we were informed that police had contacted the venue and questioned staff about the meeting, ostensibly on suspicion that ‘a terrorist’ would be speaking at the meeting. FRFI has held many meetings at the Compass and pub staff refused to be intimidated: the meeting went ahead successfully.

Then on 18 November, at Glasgow University, FRFI members turned up at the room they had booked for a film showing and meeting entitled Che Guevara: in defence of socialism, only to be told by the janitor that the booking had been cancelled after a call at the main booking office half an hour earlier. He offered some convoluted pretext for this but it quickly became obvious this was not the real reason. When pressed, he became hostile.

Throughout this episode, a casually-dressed man was standing nearby showing an intense interest in some posters on the wall. After the janitor had gone, he said he was waiting for a friend and then casually asked about the argument with the janitor and whether we were students. But his cover was blown when five minutes later a different janitor approached and called over to him: ‘It’s all right, Stevie, they’re not showing a film about Palestine, have ye got one of the posters on you?’ After both men had checked out our venue, they left. Comrades in Scotland had indeed, a few days earlier, put up posters in the university, including some picturing a Palestinian freedom fighter.

Another meeting in November organised by a different organisation in solidarity with the Intifada, held at Bolivar Hall in London, faced similar attempts at sabotage from the police. The Jewish Chronicle published a call by Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion (which seems predominantly concerned with what it calls ‘Islamic extremism’) for those organising the meeting to be arrested under the 2006 Terrorism Act.

Clearly, the British state is primed to see ‘extremism’ everywhere, and, with Zionist support, keen to define support for the Palestinian national liberation struggle as support for ‘terrorism’. It is vital that we refuse to be intimidated and continue to fight for the legitimate voice of the Palestinian resistance to be heard.

Cat Wiener

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011