Thousands march across Europe, US in support of Palestinian cause
Tens of thousands of protesters marched in support of Palestinians on Saturday in major European cities, including London, Berlin, Madrid and Paris, as the worst violence in years raged between Israel and militants in Gaza.
In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch, near the British capital’s Hyde Park, to march toward the Israeli embassy.
Packed crowds stretched all along Kensington High Street where the embassy is located.
Organizers claimed as many as 150,000 people had gathered for the London march, one of several across Britain, though London police said they were unable to confirm any figure.
“The group is spread across a large area which makes it impossible to count them,” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said.
“This time is different,” Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot told the demonstrators.
“This time we will not be denied anymore. We are united. We have had enough of oppression.”
Simon Makepace, a 61-year-old accountant, said he had joined the protests because “the whole world should be doing something about it, including this country.”
He was critical of the United States, which he said was unfairly backing Israel, and urged Washington to “make peace and stop what’s happening.”
Later Saturday, two Leicester City players, England’s Hamza Choudhury and France’s Wesley Fofana, held a Palestinian flag after the team won the FA Cup final, beating Chelsea 1-0.
Across North America, in turn, gatherings to show solidarity with Palestinians took place in cities, including Boston, Washington, and Montreal.
Several hundred people turned out in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York, chanting “Free, free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
They waved Palestinian flags and held placards that read “End Israeli Apartheid” and “Freedom for Gaza.”
In Madrid, meanwhile, some 2,500 people, many of them young people wrapped in Palestinian flags, marched to the Puerta del Sol plaza in the city center. “This is not a war, it’s genocide,” they chanted.
“They are massacring us,” said Amira Sheikh-Ali, a 37-year-old of Palestinian origin.
“We’re in a situation when the Nakba is continuing in the middle of the 21st century,” she said, referring to the “catastrophe,” a word used by Palestinians to describe Israel’s creation in 1948 when thousands fled or were driven out.
The marches came amid the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since a 2014 war in Gaza.
Thousands marched in Berlin and other German cities following a call by the Samidoun collective.
Three marches were authorized in Berlin’s working-class Neukoelln southern district, home to large numbers of people with Turkish and Arab roots. The protesters shouted “Boycott Israel” and threw paving stones and bottles at the police, leading to several arrests.
Police officers used tear gas and water cannon in Paris to try to disperse a pro-Palestinian rally held there despite a ban by authorities.
Some threw stones or tried to set up roadblocks with construction barriers, but for the most part police pursued groups across the district while preventing a planned march toward the Place de la Bastille.
The Israeli bombardment began last Monday, after Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem.
That was in response to bloody Israeli police action at the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, as well as a crackdown on protests against the planned Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in annexed east Jerusalem.