Thousands march on Whitehall to protest Israeli flotilla massacre

Report by ISM London

London Demonstration Against Attack on Gaza Aid Flotilla – rough cut - from fil kaler on Vimeo.

In the early hours of this morning, the Israeli military stormed the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid and over 700 human rights defenders, politicians and journalists that was carrying a vital 10,000 tonnes of medical and construction supplies to the besieged Gaza strip. In the process they shot and killed numerous unarmed passengers, with reports suggesting that as many as 19 were killed and 60 wounded.

In response, protests have been staged across the globe including London. Exact numbers were difficult to pin down, nonetheless it was clearly at last 2000, with perhaps as many as 3500 demonstrating.

Protesters began to gather at the entrance to Downing Street at around 11am with police keen to contain their presence to the opposing side of the road. However a firm stand and quickly growing numbers, saw our presence at the entrance maintained and as the hours passed the numbers grew. The crowd swelled and soon enough both lanes of Whitehall were blocked and traffic was forced to reverse and disperse. At around 3pm, a number of speakers from various groups gave some emotional speeches deploring the actions of the Israeli state, calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from London and for Britain to cut its ties with Israel.

Protesters energy built and eventually the thousands began the long march to the Israeli embassy. With chants of “Free Palestine” and “Free Free the flotilla, Israel is a Killer” ringing through the streets it would have been hard for passers by not to see the wealth of emotion surrounding the issue.

Culminating with a protest outside the embassy, the police stood readied with their riot gear outside, thousands carried on their demand for justice, and took part in a poignant one-minute silence and after another hour of protesting began to disperse.

However before the day was out, Jonathan Hoffman, the somewhat eccentric Vice-chair of the Zionist Federation stepped into the crowd carrying Israeli flags. Despite an angry reception, he failed in his attempts to provoke an emotional crowd into violence. Despite initial police attempts to insist they were simply facilitating “everybody’s right to join the protest”, he was soon half hounded out and half ushered away (by the police).

At 7.30pm approximately three dozen protesters were left at the embassy continuing to chant and make their presence felt.

The day has seen high emotions and tensions channelled into a call for action from the British government and the international community to take concreate action against Israeli state terrorism in the form of sanctions.

While Israel continues to hide behind a cloak of silence regarding the fate of those who were on the ships, more demonstrations are being planned.

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 1st June, a demonstration will take place outside the Israeli Embassy on South Kensington High Street from 5pm onwards.

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