'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
"1763 in the Ohio river valley you got Lord Jeffrey Amherst committing to written order an instruction to his subordinate Henry Bouquet, having been defeated by Pontiac Ottawa confederacy in the field. The order essentially says that they have been defeated militarily and is therefore necessary for Amherst forces to request a peace, to sue for peace from Pontiacs people. He instructs Bouquet to convene a parlay with the Indian leadership for that purpose. And as is the custom, as is common courtesy among native populations as was known to the Brits at that time, it would be necessary for those who requested the council to give gifts to those requested to attend. Make those gifts, Amherst says, items taken from a smallpox infirmary in order, I'm going to quote directly now, this isn't a paraphrase: 'in order that we may extirpate this execrable race'. Now key is on this last word, had he said that we might eradicate the opposing combatants, their military capacity, their warriors.. what ever term he wanted to use, it would have been biological warefare. But he didn't say anything about that, he said the 'race'. His intent was to use biological means, to use disease, quite explicitly so, to eradicate an entire population group. And Bouquet was also kind enough to commit to writing in his response the next day, I have done as instructed, dispersing three blankets, two handkerchiefs and sundry other items, hopefully, he says, they will have the desired result. They did.. the lowest estimate of the number of people who died of smallpox as a result of that little gesture of friendship and goodwill is a 100,000!"