Organisers say the march was the largest Palestine solidarity demonstration in UK history
On Saturday (May 22), the day after a ceasefire came into effect following 11 days of bloodshed in Gaza, an estimated 180,000 people gathered on the streets of London to show solidarity with Palestinians. The march, activists say, is the largest pro-Palestine protest in UK history, following a similar protest that drew an estimated 150,000 last week.
Moving from Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park, the demonstrators called for an urgent resolution to the violence in Gaza, arguing that a ceasefire isn’t enough, and that UK leaders must address Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.
“There must be no acceptance of this status quo just because the bombs are no longer falling on Gaza,” wrote the protest’s organisers — the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) — in a statement ahead of the march. “The complicity of our government, our political leaders, our public bodies, and our corporations with this system of apartheid must end.”
Saturday’s crowd carried pro-Palestine banners and Palestinian flags, chanting “Free Palestine” and “Boris Johnson, shame on you” as they passed Downing Street. At a temporary stage in Hyde Park, thousands of protesters also gathered to listen to speeches by Labour MPs, anti-war activists, and trade union members.
“While the ceasefire is a step forward, unless the fundamental issues are addressed, we will be here again,” former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the crowd. “The way forward is quite simply this: the occupation of Palestine must end.”
Speaking to the crowd, Labour MP John McDonnell also addressed the need for ongoing action. “Yes, a ceasefire has been negotiated and we welcome a ceasefire,” he said. “But let’s be clear, there will be no ceasefire in our campaign to boycott, disinvest and sanction the Israeli apartheid state. The message is clear, we will not cease our campaign in solidarity until there is justice. So let’s make it clear, no justice, no peace.”
Protests against the Israeli occupation have taken place in other cities across the UK this weekend — including Bristol, Peterborough and Nottingham — with Manchester also seeing a turnout of thousands. Worldwide, demonstrations have been held in cities including Paris, Berlin, Melbourne, and New York.
On Saturday, a Gaza official said that at least 2,000 housing units were destroyed in the days of aerial bombardment, and 15,000 more have been damaged. The UN reports that as many as 66,000 Palestinians displaced by Israeli airstrikes have started to head home. The number of confirmed dead, meanwhile, has risen to 243 as bodies are found in the rubble.