Gaza national demo 26th July – short report and some pics

The event began outside the Israeli Embassy on Kensington High Street where the police had closed the roads to accommodate the tens of thousands of protesters arriving by lunchtime.

Shortly after 1pm, the huge march set off slowly east.

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Police were keen to portray a friendly image, and the Silver Chief Superintendent Morgan briefed his officers to “smile and wave”. Even austerity cuts were temporarily suspended as the Met Commissioner authorised officers to claim for ice creams, perhaps a dual purpose of cooling, as well as reinforcing the ‘fun’ image.

However, in the back streets around Kensington, there were dozens of vans of riot police, and the intelligence-gathering Police Liaison Officers were out in force, as well as undercovers on the march, spotter teams, and Forward Intelligence Teams with photographers. And the front of the march was patrolled by the normally less than friendly TSG officers.

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Downing Street was protected by layers of double fencing, although the march continued on past to Parliament Square for speeches and socialist newspaper sales.

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A small group of Palestinians continued a sit-down vigil opposite Downing Street.

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In Parliament Square, even two TSG officers were spotted in PLO tabards (surely some sort of mixed message!), and a couple of British Transport Police were tabarded up too.

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At the appointed end, around 4pm, a group of young Palestinian supporters marched a couple of times round the square and then headed north, perhaps towards the BBC or back to the Embassy – they numbered a little over 100.

Meanwhile, in the square a people’s assembly took place, facilitated by Occupy folk, who were hoping to encourage the erection of a temporary peace camp. A group of around 200 people shared ideas and speeches on an open mic, but it became clear that the #occupytheoccupation call-out had not reached enough people to establish a viable camp, and the idea was abandoned for the evening (or rather postponed).

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Once they realised the camp was not happening, the large deployment of PLOs dispersed.  

#occupytheoccupation is also a call-out for people to think creatively about occupations of relevant targets over the coming days. Already last week saw several such protests, including at the Ministry of Justice and at arms companies offices in London and Cardiff. Interestingly, there have been NO ARRESTS at any of these actions, possibly because the authorities are concerned about the “commit a small crime in order to prevent a larger crime” defence being played out in court, in the context of UK support for Israeli war crimes.

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