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We keep marching for Gaza, Cleverly told

PALESTINE solidarity campaigners told Home Secretary James Cleverly today they will not stop marching — rebuffing his demand for an end to the demonstrations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mr Cleverly, desperate to bring a halt to the protests which brought down his predecessor Suella Braverman and have shaken the establishment, said the marches should stop as they had “made their point” — the latest government attempt to halt the movement.

But the six organisations which have come together to organise the solidarity movement made it clear that they would not consider pausing their campaigning until there was at least a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Instead, at a Westminster press conference, they united to slam the mounting assault on the right to protest being conducted by the government and other right-wing politicians.

“There is a growing attack on the right to protest,” Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal told the press conference.

“Demonising the protesters for Palestinian rights by pro-Israeli politicians serves to deflect attention from Israel’s genocide.”

Stop the War Coalition vice-chair Chris Nineham presented a dossier outlining the obstructions the enormous demonstrations have faced from the Metropolitan Police acting on ministerial orders.

“The picture that emerges is one of a police force behaving in a discriminatory and hostile manner to legal protest,” it states.

It is to be presented at a meeting with assistant commissioner Matt Twist later this week. 

Mr Nineham emphasised that “despite the hype the protests have been almost completely peaceful.

“No case can be made that these have been threatening or violent in any way.”

Mr Jamal highlighted the large contingent of Jewish marchers joining the protests as a refutation of the suggestion that they were anti-semitic.

Policing of the protests had been “uniquely repressive,” Mr Nineham said, with a “high level of aggression” and far too many officers deployed.

Left MP John McDonnell criticised proposals being circulated to insulate politicians from mass protests. 

He said: “This is the operation of our democracy. We should welcome it and be proud of it.”

The march organisers also dismissed new plans being proposed to force protesters to give the police up to two weeks’ notice of any demonstrations, rather than the current six days if “reasonably practicable.”

“We nearly always give much more notice than that already,” Mr Jamal said.

Ruth Ehrlich, from civil liberties campaign group Liberty, warned that ministers’ “divisive rhetoric, inflammatory language, saying marches are hate marches, that people standing up for their beliefs are extremists, is contributing to a very febrile atmosphere” across society.

She argued that the new attacks on the right to protest come on top of several pieces of legislation passed by the government in recent years restricting democratic rights.

Yasmine Adam, from the Muslim Association of Britain, highlighted the rampant Islamophobia being stoked by the right to justify action against the solidarity movement.

“The establishment is clearly worried by the strength of opposition to Israel’s genocide,” she said, and was responding by whipping up anti-Muslim feeling.

Mr Jamal also made a strong defence of the “from the river to the sea” chant which has been a feature of the protests frequently denounced by Israel’s supporters.

“It speaks to the nature of how the rights of the Palestinian people are deprived,” he said.

“Across all of historic Palestine, whether they are living as Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel — treated as unequal citizens under a system of apartheid — or whether they live under military occupation, they will not be free until that system of injustice is ended.

“It in no way calls for the abrogation of anybody else’s rights.

“We will continue to chant it despite the rhetoric used to demonise it.”

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