There was a spirited atmosphere at the Rise Up For Palestine demonstration in Hastings town centre last Saturday, organised by the Hastings & Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign (HRPSC). Over 120 came to show their support for Palestine after 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza that is reported to have left 248 dead, including 66 children, and saw widespread violence across the West Bank and Israel.

At the gathering, the crowd paid tribute to the civilians killed by Israeli airstrikes by reading out the names of the youngest victims, one only six months old. HRPSC secretary Laurie Holden gave a speech about the crimes of apartheid and persecution, citing recent reports by respected human rights organisation B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch which both concluded that Israel is guilty of practising apartheid.

PICTURE: Philip Colley

Fellow HRPSC member Jenny Sutton encouraged the audience to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, drawing a comparison with the power of consumer protest in helping to end South African Apartheid. Campaign Chair Katy Colley then spoke about her personal journey from her upbringing in a “Jewish, liberal Zionist household” to become staunch defender of Palestinian human rights. She urged all those on the demonstration to “let this be the start of your own journey” for Palestinian freedom and justice.

A collection was made, raising over £530 for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a British charity supporting hospitals and health professionals responding to the crisis in Gaza.

Then, led by some of Hastings’ finest drummers, the group took off on their march, chanting: ‘Free Free Palestine! Free Free Gaza!’ and ‘In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians!’

The marchers were in high spirits as they stopped traffic, enjoyed sympathetic honking from passing buses and cars and withstood a torrential downpour along the seafront.

Ms Colley said afterwards: “The people of Hastings came out today to show they understand the deep injustices that Palestinians have been subjected to for decades, and they are no longer prepared to keep quiet about it.

 “And what was amazing was that we were just one small protest in a sea of protests this weekend, all over the country: thousands were on the streets of Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, Bristol, Peterborough and Nottingham. And over 200,000 turned out in London. That’s the biggest pro-Palestinian rally in British history.

“We were all of us out demanding change, demanding sanctions on Israel, demanding an end to the siege of Gaza and an end to apartheid.

“I strongly believe that we have reached a tipping point and that this is now an unstoppable movement. The Israeli aggression we have seen in the last two weeks has been horrific but there has been a real shift in the public’s reaction to that aggression. This started with the ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah and the attacks on the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, but everywhere in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians are rising up to resist. Their courage is breathtaking, many risking their lives just walking out of their homes to show that they have had enough of the systemic discrimination and violence against them.

“Many of us have been inspired by their courage, their strength and resilience and our numbers are growing all the time. In the past fortnight alone we have had a flood of new members joining, many of them young people driven to act because they know there is something very wrong here and it needs to change. So we’ll keep chanting, shouting and banging our drums until Palestine is free.’

Further information on the Hastings & Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign can be found at hastingspalestinecampaign.org or on Facebook


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