Protesters outside Folkestone council meeting
Protesters outside Folkestone council meeting

Protesters thrown out as Folkestone council refuses to discuss Gaza

Eric Segal, Kent Socialist Party

Trade unionists and local campaigners turned up to Folkestone and Hythe council’s meeting on 1 March demanding that the council takes a vote calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Abena Akuffo-Kelly, Folkestone’s mayor, a Labour councillor and chair of the council, said that she had unfortunately mislaid the request for a debate on Gaza! Green councillor Mike Blakemore said: “We do often get asked to make statements or pass motions on national or international issues and, while the position in Gaza is of a different order, I do feel our energies are best devoted to the council and its work on behalf of local people.”

The joint leader of Folkestone council, Green councillor Jim Martin, announced that he was “minded to write a letter to the Foreign Secretary David Cameron and that he would ask other councillors to sign the letter”. In response, people in the public gallery protested saying we wanted the council to debate the genocide in Gaza and that a letter was not good enough. The chair tried to shout down the protesters while ordering the councillors to leave the council chamber and called the police, demanding that we clear the public gallery.

When the police arrived, the director of the council explained that an extraordinary meeting can be held to discuss the call for a ceasefire. We said that we would allow the council to complete the meeting without disruption if the chair would agree to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss Gaza. The chair refused, saying “bad behaviour should not be rewarded”. As if a request to debate the massacre of innocents is “bad behaviour”. We were then removed from the public gallery.

Folkestone council will be held to account for its refusal to debate the ongoing genocide in Gaza. The call for an extraordinary council meeting will grow so that the voices of Palestinians can be heard in Folkestone council chambers. We need trade unionist, socialist and anti-war candidates to replace unprincipled charlatans in local councils.

Worcester meeting discusses standing against Labour and Tories over Gaza

Stuart and Pete, Worcester Socialist Party

Socialist Party members were invited to what soon became a highly charged meeting in Worcester on 10 March. The meeting was organised by the local Asian community to see the strength of feeling about Gaza, and to explore the possibility of standing independent candidates to challenge Labour and the Conservatives in the local elections.

Available chairs soon ran out and over 80 people filled the local community centre to discuss the desperate need to do more about the situation in Gaza. “We need to make a stand” was a commonly repeated theme, another was: “We can’t just sit back and not do something about this”. Rejection of the main parties was spoken about by speakers, as was the oppression that Muslims face across the globe.

Muslim councillors in Worcester, from both Labour and the Conservatives, had been approached earlier to see if they would step down and stand independently. They had refused and were called “cowards”, and the idea of changing the situation from within the Labour Party was discredited. Three people spoke separately giving the reasons why they have decided to make a stand, as independents. One particularly passionate speaker compared the group to a Palestinian youth who throws a stone when faced by an oncoming armoured vehicle, demanding we still need to resist and how others will follow.

A representative of the Socialist Party spoke from the floor about the shared struggle, and highlighted past involvement in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and the war on Iraq, with parallels drawn. Three Socialist Party members stood as TUSC candidates in Worcester in last year’s local elections. “We [TUSC and the Socialist Party] do not want to be campaigning against you in the local elections, but want to be fighting with you” resulted in applause from the attendees. After the formal meeting, discussions continued regarding next steps with the organisers.

Protest greets Twickenham arms fair

Neal Jeffery, West London Socialist Party

The English Rugby Football Union (RFU) has held arms fairs at Twickenham stadium for the last few years and a protest greeted the second such fair this year on 27 February.

A sale of combat helicopters and drones to any regime willing to spend money on them took place in the middle of the Six Nations rugby tournament, insulting to local residents and rugby fans alike.

There were around a hundred protesters in attendance, mostly local residents and Gaza campaigners. Socialist Party members joined them to show the greedy RFU our anger over the sale of arms to any capitalist regime. Also in attendance was ‘Nasty Nick’ of East Enders fame. The actor who played him was one of the protest’s organisers!

I think the sign outside the stadium saying what is not to be brought onto the premises says it all!