Watched by a police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) who prowled around trying to overhear plans, a group of a few dozen people gathered outside Whitechapel tube at noon today to take part in an action called by the London Palestine Action group.
After a short briefing, handing out leaflets for the public, letters to staff, and various banners and flags, the group marched off to their main target which turned out to be the large Sainsbury store nearby.
Some activists were already in the store as the group turned up. They had been gathering baskets of produce that comes from Israel or the occupied territories, among them, hummous, aubergine spread, various fruits and dates.
Some activists remained in the lobby near the main doors, while others entered the shop.
Although management and police seemed reasonably relaxed, some of the Securitas staff acted up – one assaulting a photographer, another grabbing a camera lens, and one trying to seize a banner. When challenged, one of the SIA-accredited staff refused to show his ID badge, until eventually police intervened and forced him to comply.
Various small groups of protesters chanted, handed out leaflets, held up banners, or wandered round the store searching for Israeli produce.
For a while the shop was closed to new customers and as others left, it became emptier.
After around twenty minutes, almost all the activists re-grouped in the lobby, and staged a die-in there, and then they left peacefully and began a loud march heading back west along Whitechapel High Street.
Along the way, they received a good response and much solidarity from shopkeepers, shoppers, drivers tooting horns, and the general public.
They paused for a while outside Starbucks, and then arrived at a Tesco Express store opposite the park. While most waited outside the small store, a small group again entered and searched for Israeli produce. Among the finds were ‘finest Venezia potatos’, grown in Israel.
The store closed its doors for a short while, while the crowd chanted outside.
Next target was a larger Tesco Metro at the end of Fieldgate St, where among the finds were Halawi dates that unashamedly announced they were packed in the West Bank (Israeli Settlement).
One of the activists had an emotional conversation with the Produce Manager, filmed by the FIT video that followed the group around all afternoon.
At the end of their talk, they shook hands, and the Manager agreed to report to Head Office that customers had complained about the Israeli produce.
The protest marched back to Whitechapel Station, where they chanted slogans a while longer, and handed out any remaining leaflets.
After a short debrief, they dispersed. Although the action might be seen as a drop in the ocean, there was a lot of engagement with local community as well as staff at the stores, and even a small dent made in the afternoon’s profits – it also mirrored a South London action that took place in Brixton – don’t forget “every little helps”.
For an intro to the BDS movement, this may be useful – http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro