Over 50,000 protest against Israel's murderous cynicism.
Today's was a huge demonstration. By my entirely unscientific method of pure guesswork, I would estimate 50,000+ at the least, possibly even the 100,000 which the Stop the War Coalition are claiming. It was certainly bigger than the second Lebanon march two years ago, which again at max may well have been 50,000.
Unlike then, the planning behind today's march seems to have been the main problem behind some of the trouble which took place, combined with a small minority of hot-heads whom were out to cause trouble. Clearly the StWC and the others behind it weren't expecting the numbers which came, and as also suggested by their appeals for stewards, there simply weren't enough of them to keep it under control or to help those unfamiliar with London with where to go. I got to Speaker's Corner about 12:05, and the park was still continuing to fill when the march finally got under way at around 13:45, although it may have been later. It was all well and good having speakers both before and after the march, but hardly any of those prior to it getting under way had anything beyond platitudes to offer, with the exception of the rapper whose name I missed who spoke/rhymed last. Getting the march under way first, then holding the speeches over for the rally afterwards would have been a better idea.
The anger was however palpable throughout. One thing I'm more than happy to report is that I did not hear one chant throughout the day in support of Hamas; although, on the other hand, there was little criticism of them either. There was as reported last week a few Hizbullah flags, and also some black flags with Arabic script (a couple of white ones also), which I'm always uncertain about regarding what they're supporting or representing. Hopefully some of the shitty photographs I took while clambering on various things give some idea of the numbers of the crowd and just how far back they stretched, especially considering I was some way back from the front. Most amusing here was a hastily parked police motorbike which was quickly draped with a couple of banners and placards, with dozens taking photos of it.
While the news reports are focusing on the trouble outside the Israeli embassy itself, some also flared outside a building that some of us were under the impression was the Israeli embassy or at least something connected with it. A couple of people had clambered onto the walls and were busy waving flags, while the police had congregated underneath. Whether it was simply those spoiling for a fight taking it upon themselves to start trouble, or those with the impression that it was the embassy and so started throwing broken placards and shoes, the police quickly called in their colleagues in riot gear, but not before a couple of officers at least had been hit square in the face with eggs, with others flecked with what looked like red paint. If anything they were very restrained, but they did rush us on a couple of occasions, while a couple of firecrackers/fireworks were also thrown. I was uncertain whether it was the embassy, until a steward did finally turn up with a megaphone telling everyone that the embassy was further on and things broke up.
As the BBC have reported, some of the trouble outside the embassy itself was purely because of the crush, with it getting distinctly uncomfortable, the side streets blocked off and riot police from the beginning throughout the area, the pavement itself apparently off limits. Again there were some hot-heads pushing the barriers back from the beginning, but for the most part things were far more jovial up here, with shoes thrown inside the embassy to great cheers. The biggest though went to the person who attached a Palestinian flag to a number of balloons, which swiftly flew into the grounds before getting trapped in a nearby tree, blowing in the slight breeze and which will hopefully be stuck there for quite some time, a permanent reminder that as was chanted throughout, we will never let Gaza die. Things were only then slightly spoiled by the great moron Galloway, who said that parliament should be turned into a battlefield and that Israeli shops in the bigging shopping malls should be picketed and potentially closed down by protesters at the rally afterwards, but for the most part it was an incredibly encouraging day with only minor scuffles and idiots marring it. You somehow doubt that tomorrow's demonstration by the Board of Deputies of British Jews will be even a tenth of today's size, as it should be. It will have also hopefully have shown the strength of feeling to our own politicians, who have been almost entirely muted in their criticism.
Complete directory of all photographs taken, many very shitty, full res, is here.
Also see Lenin's various posts.