We just had a great rally in Swindon town centre, with about 300 people (the police estimated 250), addressed by South Swindon MP Anne Snellgrove, who is a member of the newly formed Labour Friends of Palestine, and also by Jenni Miles from the Green Party, Cllr Michael Dickenson (Conservative), and Labour councillors Derique Montaut, Bob Wright and Junab Ali. The rally was also addressed by Martin Wicks for Swindon Trades Council, and Peter Smith for the National Union of Teachers.
Several members of the Homebase union branch for the T&G/Unite came along, as they had a branch meeting this morning and had decided to support the rally, and they brought Unite placards and flags, and their full time officer.
I was chairing the rally, and from where I was standing it was great to see the numbers swelling continually as the event went on. Finally we were addressed by Allan Thipthorpe, an elderly veteran of the British Army campaign in Palestine from 1945, wearing his beret, medals and regimental blazer. Allan movingly spoke of the 750 soldiers that were lost in the Palestine campaign fighting the Zionists, and said he feared that the Israelis wanted to kill all the Palestinians. He said the he didn’t know what to do to stop it, because he is too old now to go back and fight for the Palestinians, but he would if he could.
One of the most positive aspects of the rally was the diversity of the crowd, and also the diversity of the opinions expressed from the platform. I also saw old faces who have not been seen in political activity for years. In some ways this present political upsurge over Gaza is reaching out to people on as broad a scale as the protests over the Iraq war in 2003.
On Tuesday 27th January there is a benefit gig for Medical Aid to Palestine in the Beehive Pub in Swindon.