Worcester: How we organised a protest
After people showed support for the Socialist Party demands on our campaign stall against Israeli state terror, we left some of our posters up so the message would remain visible. A few days later, we received a phone call.
The person was aware of a protest planned, but he and others wanted to protest earlier. He had seen our posters, and tracked down our contact details.
We decided to move the location of our 22 May stall to outside the Guildhall, and welcomed him and others to come along and show solidarity. It was one of our most successful stalls – 30 people joined us, over 20 bought a copy of the Socialist, and we raised almost £100 fighting fund.
The 29 May protest was an order of magnitude larger. The day before, people were worried it might be cancelled as the authorities tried to make someone liable for the event.
300 people heard speeches, including from the Socialist Party. Our call for a socialist intifada received an enthusiastic round of applause.
On both protests, people were cynical about the messages from establishment politicians. On the latter protest, 30 people bought a copy of the Socialist, and we raised over £100 fighting fund.
Although it was a smaller protest than the previous week, around 100, the Socialist Party supported the protests for the third week in a row. Many on this demo had not been to the others.
The smaller event raises the question of how to keep the momentum going. The first person we met on the protest asked us: “What can I do to help?” We pointed her to our West Midlands online meeting, and said to raise the issue in her union branch with the demands on our leaflet.
The second person we met accused us of supporting Hamas, because our placards only mention Israel. We showed him our leaflet. As well as explaining how to take the Palestine struggle forward, it criticises counterproductive Hamas rocket attacks and its failure to fight for an independent working-class alternative. He came to us ready for an argument, but left thanking us for being the only left group he had met to take the issue seriously.
The demo of 300-400 people on 30 May was strong, youthful and lively. Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary of transport union RMT, highlighted the need for new mass workers’ parties both here and in Palestine.
We discussed with loads of protesters. We talked with some of the organisers of the Elbit demo in Leicester about our article in the Socialist on that protest (see ‘Leicester protest against arms supplies to Israel’ at socialistparty.org.uk), and what can be done to take that struggle forward. We sold 21 copies of the Socialist, and raised £16 fighting fund.
Towards the end of the demo a young student came up to the Socialist Party campaign stall, and said she wanted to volunteer with us. We had a great chat about education, and the incident in a Leicester school where students were told to take down pro-Palestine posters.
The mood has really changed in Leicester. A significant number of youth are frustrated by over a decade of austerity and endless wars, and understand the need for socialism and working-class unity.
We thought we were going to do a campaign stall near Leicester University on 27 May. We had just finished handing out leaflets to students at QWE College when we came across a group of sixth formers carrying the Palestinian flag.
A brief chat revealed they were on their way to protest in Leicester city centre. We joined them in a lively and noisy demo against Israeli state brutality. The protesters were keen to point out that they were not anti-Jewish, but anti-Israeli state brutality and oppression.
Students eagerly took our posters and leaflets, and signed our petition. We raised over £23 fighting fund, and sold eight copies of the Socialist.
Hundreds of young protesters were welcomed with food. However, they were angry that they had had zero support from Labour councillors and MPs. One speaker spoke about the protests at Elite KL in Tamworth, which is selling arms to Israel.
The Socialist Party was thanked for attending, and was invited to address the crowd. We spoke about further austerity that Boris Johnson and Benjamin Netanyahu are preparing for British, Palestinian and Israeli workers alike.
We marched to the city centre to meet up with hundreds more protesters. Protesters donated £53 to help us pay for even more placards.
The demo was called in response to the £4.5 million investments by the University of Birmingham in companies tied to the Israeli military and occupation of the West Bank. The demonstration reached 300 people, many chose to check out our Socialist Students stall. Over 100 people were interested in Socialist Students, and 16 bought a copy of the Socialist.