On Saturday 17th January Israel declared a "unilateral ceasefire," ending (for the timebeing at least) the brutal assault on Gaza it began on 27th December. With the full extent of the devestation wrought only now becoming clear, protests against the attack and wider Israeli policy towards the Palestinians continued up to and beyond this declaration. The "ceasefire" came during a weekend of protests against the assault in Nottingham and across the Midlands, building on a widespread sense of anger, particularly amongst Muslim communities.
On Friday 16th January there was a vigil outside the Council House. Around 150 people attended and were addresed by a range of speakers. The next day there was a very large march from the Forest Recreation Ground to Market Square, with a rally next to the statue of Brian Clough. On Monday 19th January, a number of Nottingham residents made their way to UAV engines in Staffordshire to protest against the company's involvement in the production of Israeli military drones.
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Newswire: Protest at Arms to Israel from Staffordshire | Gaza Protest March Through Nottingham to Market Sq : Pix 1 | 2 | Nottingham Gaza Protest 'candle-lit' Vigil : Pix 1 | 2 | Stop the Slaughter in Gaza - Lincoln Protest | Nottingham Gaza Emergency Protest: Pics 1 | 2 | Gaza Public Meeting at Bobbers Mill Community Centre
On Friday 16th January from 5.30pm onwards, there was a Protest 'candle-lit' Vigil outside the Council House in the Old Market Square on Friday evening, called by Nottingham Stop the War Coalition, Nottingham Mosques and supported by many groups. People began to gather from 5:30pm, some coming straight from work. There were speakers, including Alan Simpson MP (Lab, Nottingham South), Hicham Yezza from Nottingham University (recently wrongly imprisoned under the terrorism laws), Nottingham City Labour councillors and others. There was a chance for members of the crowd to express their opinions as well as a silence to remember the Palestinians and Israelis killed during the conflict.
On Saturday 17th January people began meeting at 10.30 am on the Forest Recreation Ground. Again, this had been called by Nottingham Stop the War Coalition and was supported by all the Nottingham Mosques. Demonstrators assembled with banners, placards, several coffins carried by local children behind a hearse. Numbering as many as a couple of thousand, they marched down the Mansfield Road into the Market Square for a rally once again addressed by assorted local dignitaries.
These protests follow a well-attended rally in the Market Square at the end of last year and a public meeting in Bobbers Mill Community Centre. Like similar events across the UK and the world, these have been large events, drawing in numbers not seen since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
On Monday 19th January, Nottingham residents joined campaigners from across the Midlands at at demonstration outside UAV Engines, Lynn Lane, Shenstone, Lichfield. The protest aimed to question whether the company (owned by the Israeli defence contractor Elbit systems) is making engine components for the Hermes 450 drones that the IDF ( Israeli Defence Force) are using to carry out surveillance and targeting for the IDF strike fighters. Elbit's own website states that UAV Ltd produces engines for the Hermes 450. Protesters called for an immediate stop to the UK governments arms exports to Israel.
Elsewhere at least 150 people braved the cold to protest on Lincoln High Street on Saturday 17th January. Organised with only a week's notice, the rally followed an earlier demonstration on 3rd January called by local mosque leaders. Speakers included Muslim community leaders, a Palestinian doctor who had lost 16 family members in the attacks, local councillors, as well as trade unionists and socialists. There was one arrest, a fascist who was taken into custody for refusing to stop openly photographing the men, women and children on the demonstration.
While the current phase in this conflict is over it seems unlikely that the plight of the population of Gaza, facing a humanitarian crisis even before the latest assault, will be resolved quickly. Similarly, the struggle for Palestinian rights will continue even if the story drops from the front pages. A further national demonstration (the third since the Israeli attack began) has been called for the coming Saturday, with transport going from Nottingham.