“Nothing justifies the killing of civilians”: Hundreds gather for pro-Palestine rally in Hackney

Packed crowds attended a vigil for Palestinians at Hackney Town Hall Square. Pic: Sharon Kam

Hundreds gathered outside Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday evening to hold a vigil for Palestinians in Gaza, as Israel’s continued military campaign on the besieged enclave saw the death toll surpass 9,000.

Representatives from different community groups and members of the public addressed the rally.

Sussan Rassoulie, secretary of Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told crowds: “We are horrified by the loss of civilian life, whoever they are, and whoever the perpetrators are, no matter whether they’re in Israel or in Palestine.

It’s been nearly four weeks since Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing 1,400 Israelis and taking some 240 hostage. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas’ rule in a war that has since claimed thousands of Palestinian lives – mostly women and minors.

Rassoulie urges for a ceasefire and end of occupation. Pic: Sharon Kam

Dave Davies, Divisional Secretary of Hackney National Education Union, said the killings of children in Gaza are “unconscionable”: “Three and a half thousand dead in the last three weeks. That is more than every single child killed in all the other world conflicts for the last three years.” 

Dave Davies said Hackney NEU grieves for all children who passed away in the war. Pic: Sharon Kam

Speakers also denounced political leaders for refusing to demand a ceasefire.

Pat Quigley, a member of Hackney PSC and Right to Food London who lives in Hackney, told ELL she was “very upset” with Labour leader Keir Starmer and his party, but acknowledged local councillors had recently signed an open letter urging Starmer to publicly call for a ceasefire. 

Pat Quigley (left) told ELL she hoped this vigil could be of some comfort to people in Gaza. Pic: Sharon Kam

Sulekha Hassan, a Hackney resident who initiated and co-organised the vigil alongside Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Friends of Al-Aqsa, told ELL: “The fact that we were able to call this (vigil) in such a short period of time tells me there is such a strength of feeling in Hackney and a lot of anger towards politicians, the media and how everything’s been portrayed. There’s a real problem.”

Sulekha Hassan (middle) said she “understands” and “empathises” with the Palestinians. Pic: Sharon Kam

Sasha Simic, a 63-year-old member of the Socialist Workers Party who graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London and lives in Stamford Hill, told ELL: “People mostly from the Global South who have experienced colonialization, who experienced occupation and what it’s done, are with the people of Palestine.”

Having previously been to Gaza in 2002, Simic told ELL the lives of Palestinians were “horrible” even then: “(There were) deliberate policies to make them give up and leave their homes, and ethnically cleanse them. And since then, we’ve just seen things getting worse and worse.” 

Attendees observed a minute of silence after the speeches to honour those who have perished.

Met police officers and staff from Hackney Council were present to monitor the vigil. 

Speakers called on the crowds to march at the national protest on Saturday. Hackney PSC will gather outside Dalston Junction station at midday and head to Central London to join the rally.  

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