More than a thousand protesters gathered in Lewisham on Saturday to demand their local MPs and councillors call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Israel’s bombing campaign has entered its fourth week following Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on October 7.
The demonstration was organised by Lewisham branches of Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, as well as Lewisham Islamic Centre and Lewisham Traders Council.
“There is a real call now for the movement [for ceasefire] to escalate even more,” Maggie Palmer, one of the organisers of the Lewisham march, told Eastlondonlines.
The march began at Lewisham Town Hall in Catford and protesters marched to Lewisham Shopping Centre carrying Palestinian flags and chanting “Ceasefire now!”
Marc Peacock, a Lewisham resident attending the demonstration, told ELL: “I think that is sort of a strategic shift by the organisers. I think they’ve tried to push the slogan of a ceasefire now, rather than a broader one of freedom or liberation.
“The reason for that is that a ceasefire is a tangible thing that people can demand from our government. The main goal is to end the slaughter.”
Austin Challen, a resident attending the protest, told ELL: “All the diverse Muslim communities in Lewisham were out in force and I was especially struck by young Muslim women and other women of colour shouting their hearts out.”
Some of the Lewisham protesters later joined thousands at a rally in Trafalgar Square in central London.
More pro-Palestine protests are planned for next Saturday, November 11.
“I think yesterday there were 50,000 people [protesting] because there were demonstrations all over the country. So people didn’t come to London, but next week they’re [the organisers] hoping that it might be the biggest demonstration for Palestine in British history,” said Palmer, referring to Saturday’s protests.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, has described pro-Palestine protests attended by tens of thousands as “hate marches” and prime minister Rishi Sunak has called next week’s planned protests that coincide with Armistice Day “provocative and disrespectful“.
Palmer told ELL that: “I don’t see that [the hate]. I see groups of Jewish people on the marches. They are welcomed and supported.”
Writing in The Times ahead of Saturday’s protests, the UK’s chief rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, said the lines between pro-Palestinian protesters and “those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas” had become “badly blurred”.
Mirvis highlighted a Manchester protest with a banner showing support for “Palestinian resistance” and said there was no ambiguity in the words used.
According to the Metropolitan Police, 29 people were arrested on the day of the march in London, including for inciting racial hatred, other racially motivated crimes, violence and assaulting a police officer.