- Created: Thursday, 13 June 2013 13:57
- Written by FRFI
FRFI activists in London and Manchester are participating in the international campaign to demand that UEFA pull its Under-21s final football tournament out of Israel, where it is due to be held from 5 to 18 June 2013.
In London, on 24 May, activists assembled outside St Pancras International station to receive around 40 activists from several European countries, mainly France, who arrived to cheers and chants of Free Palestine! Boycott Israel! We then set off for a 250-strong march to Grosvenor Hotel in Park Lane where the UEFA annual congress was taking place. FRFI was among the coalition of groups which organised the day of action, along with Football Beyond Borders and Red Card Israeli Racism – which held a five-hour rally outside the hotel. A small group of intrepid activists even managed, later, to get past security and protest at the UEFA dinner itself. In front of guests including David Beckham and Alex Ferguson, one got onto the platform to denounce Israel and another stood behind UEFA president Michel Platini holding a flag.
On the march, despite the pouring rain protesters, many in Palestinian football shirts, chanted energetically, handing out ‘red card’ postcards to be sent to UEFA urging it to relocate the tournament. We then marched to Marks and Spencer in Marble Arch, where for nearly 13 years, FRFI’s campaign Victory to the Intifada has held weekly pickets calling for a boycott of M&S, Britain’s biggest corporate sponsor of Israel. FRFI activists submitted a letter to CEO Marc Bolland, calling on the corporation to cuts ties with Israel. M&S is also a supplier to the English Football Association, which backs the UEFA Under-21s in Israel.
Drenched but in high spirits, the march arrived in Park Lane to join more protesters for a rally. Among the speakers was Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian footballer, who spent three years in prison without charge and was only released in July 2012 after a 92-day hunger strike. Mahmoud spoke about the brutality of the Israeli occupation and the importance of international solidarity. The goalkeeper of the Palestinian Olympic team, Omar Abu Rouis, and Ramallah FC player Mohammed Namer remain imprisoned in Israel. A state which abducts athletes should not be allowed to host international sporting events. FRFI activists also spoke from the platform.
A week earlier, on 18 May, FRFI activists in Manchester organised a rolling picket of Adidas and McDonald’s, corporate sponsors of the UEFA games. They moved on to protest outside M&S, with a final rally at the National Football Museum which received support of many young people angry at the treatment of the Palestinians.
Manchester FRFI will be holding another rolling picket on Saturday 8 June.
London FRFI is holding two events in June:
Picket of M&S, Thursday 6 June 6-8pm (and the first Thursday of every month), outside M&S, Oxford Street (Marble Arch end)
Discussion meeting: ‘Why we must boycott Israel’ (organised in conjunction with Football Beyond Borders), Wednesday 12 June 7pm, Room G50 SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, WC1N 0XG. Speakers: Barnaby Mitchell from FRFI; Tom and Lucas from Football Beyond Borders; Helen Yaffe, Leicester University, on lessons from the anti-apartheid movement.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013