Today I went to London’s Gaza Solidarity protest, which was ‘successful’ in as much as it got truly vast numbers of people – the police say 12,000 but the organisers say 200,000, and from being there all I can say is that I was constantly thinking ‘wait, there’s MORE of us?’
As is always the case on these kinds of things, the negative attitude toward Israel’s government and its policies was the only real constant – apart from that there was huge diversity. I personally carried a ‘no gods no masters’ banner right next to people chanting ‘God is Great!’ in arabic. The speakers too didn’t have a coherent line – some were clearly pro-Hamas, others clearly anti. This is natural. I hope I don’t soon stumble over people trying to smear the march as homogenously one thing or the other, but then I’m sure no-one would ever stoop to such a ridiculous low.
Anyway, only after getting back did I learn of how heated events at the front got (a tribute to the sheer size of the thing) – essentially, there were scuffles between people trying to block entry to the Israeli embassy and people trying to occupy it (the former being police). Similar things happened at a similar march last saturday.
The discourse around these kinds of incidents always intrigues me. Essentially, police say things like “A hard core of demonstrators are undermining the cause of the vast majority of people on this demonstration, who are law abiding citizens wishing to protest peacefully.” And protest organisers respond with things like “I have never seen policing as irresponsible as this.” Both sides try to project belligerence and, if I may use a usually emotive word as dispassionately as possible, violence, onto the other. Both sides want to project themselves as entirely non-violent, as ‘peaceful’ and ‘legitimate’.
I think that’s a mistake.
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