'Israel Off Your Trolley' BDS Protest in Newcastle
Palestine Action Group (Newcastle) 9 January 2011
Palestine Action Group (PAG) organised a lively creative protest in Newcastle city centre on Saturday 8th January. Activists constructed a huge symbolic apartheid wall covered with information about companies that support Israel. The six-metre banner provided both an arresting spectacle for passers by, who came to find out more from the information on both sides, and a great way to connect shopping activity in Newcastle to the continuing murder of Palestinians.
Activists outside Starbucks Coffee
Jahwaher Abu Rahmeh was killed by Israeli soldiers on the first of January whilst peacefully protesting at the wall in Bil’in. She is one of 21 demonstrators who have been killed on demonstrations in Palestine since 2005. Her death further underlines the importance of raising awareness about the wall and occupation on the streets in Britain, particularly the impact people here can have by standing in solidarity with Palestine.
(for more information about Jahwaher's murder and Palestinian protests against the wall, see: http://www.bilin-village.org )
Entrance of H&M picketed
The demonstration began at Grey’s Monument at 12 o’clock, awaited by a photographer from the Chronicle, and a heavy police presence. It moved off to the first target – Waitrose in Eldon Square, which stocks hundreds of Israeli products. The security guards blocked the entrance of the shopping centre and the protesters had to remain outside, with chanting and megaphone speeches attracting shoppers to find out about the cause.
Schuh was targeted next, as a stockist of Caterpillar – manufacturer of the bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied territories – and Timberland - active supporters of Israeli business propositions. H&M followed, provoking shoppers to reconsider their purchases. One protester, new to the cause, declared: ‘I got an H&M voucher for Christmas, but now I’m going to return it and get a refund!’ Such a popular and visible target on Newcastle’s main shopping street attracted a huge amount of interest, and crowds gathered to view the wall and find out more.
Mark’s and Spencer, the biggest British corporate sponsor of Israel, was the final target, where PAG hold weekly pickets every Thursday evening. A large amount of M&S security guards, along with many police officers watched the demonstration’s rousing conclusion, with speeches linking the oppression of the Palestinians to oppression all over the world, and impassioned chanting: ‘ISRAEL USES TANKS TO KILL! M&S FOOTS THE BILL!’
‘ISRAEL USES TANKS TO KILL! M&S FOOTS THE BILL!’
Currently the rising movement against the government’s welfare cuts, particularly through the inspiring student resistance, is saturating the headlines as the sum total of contemporary political protest. It is gratifying to see many of these young people connecting their struggle with the struggle of the Palestinian people, and coming out on the streets yet again to protest against the injustices of our political system. Sophie, a school student who came to Palestinian solidarity through the student anti-cuts movement explained: ‘This is the first time I’ve been to these protests and I enjoyed it because there were lots of new people and it was liberating to stand up for what I believe in’.
For long-term members of PAG one of the most remarkable things about this protest was the huge amount of new supporters, who are beginning to see that the only way to bring about real change, both nationally and internationally, is to get out on the streets. Tom, who had never been to a PAG protest before stated: ‘The vibe of the group was really friendly and open to new people, which helped me to get on the megaphone and be involved.’ This kind of support is exactly what PAG needs if it is to build a real movement in Newcastle in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We encourage all anti-racists to join our group, to learn about, discuss, and oppose the illegal occupation of Palestine. Not just today, but every day, Northumberland Street must echo: ‘FREE! FREE! PALESTINE!’
A video of the protest has been produced by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Palestine Action Group
"They [Met Police] initially denied it, that they had sent officers to Israel to find out how to deal with suicide bombers. When I asked them would you have done the same thing after the Brixton riots and sent people to South Africa (under the apartheid regime) to find out how to deal with black people? They didn't have an answer. I asked the question 'do you have a shoot to kill policy?', they said no they didn't, over a number of years, and then it was finally, tragically, proven that they did have.. we finally cut our ties [ceased meetings with the Met Police in protest], I came out thinking of the police as insincere, hypocritical, having double standards."