Gaza Freedom March: Crowds Storm BBC Manchester

June 1, 2010

Around 2,500 people took to the streets of Manchester yesterday in response to the deadly raids carried out by Israeli commandos on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid supplies to Palestine.

Manchester Gaza Protest Freedom for Palestine 30th May 2010

Witness the violence inherent in the system

Activists have since been described as “unruly and uncivil” by the mainstream media, and although it may be true there was a lot of rage expressed that evening – the real antagonists were not ordinary members of the public, but those employed to protect us.

As the peaceful hour-long march through the city-centre descended on the BBC Manchester around 6:35pm, the flagship regional news programme ‘North West Tonight’ was broadcasting live inside.

Yet there was not a soul to be seen and the BBC building appeared completely deserted, apart from a large number of tactical aid units, police in riot gear with dogs.

Video Report - Gaza Protest Manchester BBC

(video clips of the event will be uploaded here shortly)

It wasn’t long before Greater Manchester Police deployed their controversial “Forward Intelligence Team” (F.I.T) to take over the coordination of their efforts, a tactic heavily criticised by human rights lawyers and journalists. Everything seemed to be calm and orderly until these “men in black” arrived.

Police brutality is common during peace marches in the UK

Several protesters managed to “occupy” the steps and one brave young man climbed on to a roof and proceeded to hoist a Palestinian flag up a pole (photo below). After making his was down safely he was abruptly snatched by riot police as you can see in the video below (no sound).

More police vans arrived and numerous scuffles began to break-out along the city’s busiest corridor as police officers attempted to break up the protests using intelligence to identify known activists.

Palestinian flag is raised above the BBC in Manchester by a protester in solidarity with the flotilla carrying humanitarian relief to Gaza by Israeli forces

One woman was “punched in the face” and carried off despite resistance from the crowd, another claims she was “slammed up against a brick wall” whilst one young man standing innocently in the street was spontaneously snatched as the police desperately sought to identify “the organisers”. Ironically, he was half-way through describing to me the spontaneous, organic nature of the protests occurring in cities around the globe as the “snatch squad” came for him.

The unbelievable horror of Israel’s actions mobilised tens of thousands of ordinary people on to the streets in an act of international unity with those persecuted and murdered by the brutal and unjustified actions of imperialist forces in collusion with the Israeli government.

Palestine Protest in Manchester, England

Although events in the Manchester were on a completely different scale to atrocities in the Middle East, here in the United Kingdom injustice and brutality is also imposed by the state in an attempt to undermine basic civil liberties.

The authorities were clearly using the event as an opportunity to gather intelligence on activists and members of the public sympathetic to opposing the establishment. Information is kept on “spotter cards” and stored on a central database so perceived troublemakers can be picked out from the crowd at future demonstrations.

Tens of thousands of innocent UK citizens (the majority of whom have no criminal record) are thought to be under surveillance. Anyone who attends a protest or is part of a campaign group is now labelled a “domestic extremist“.

Thousands march through Manchester in support of Gaza

As events unfolded it was becoming blatantly obvious anyone who simply “looked Muslim” were being systematically subjected to intimidation and threats – this was particularly true of passing motorists simply honking their horns in support who were stopped in the street, and had their registation numbers taken down, and get this – warned for “improper use of a horn!”. Many drivers claimed they’d only beeped their horns after police jumped out in the road at them.

Police recording car registration plate numbers of passing motorists beeping their horns in support of protesters

(video clips of the event will be uploaded here shortly)

During the march I spotted a number of city councillors leading chants and carrying placards. I doubt they would have been targeted in such a discriminant manner considering the police are apparently accountable to the city council.

Protests against human rights abuses in the middle east go global

The peace movement has focused it’s attention on the state-owned broadcasters such as the BBC, faced with accusations of biased reporting – especially when it comes to events in the Middle East. The way this particular protest was covered is a prime example.

It took several hours for the BBC to report the drama unfolding outside their North West headquarters. At around 20:07pm as the protests began to quieten down a very brief (and rather inaccurate) article appeared on their website.

According to the BBC’s initial report:

“Protesters demonstrating against the Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid ship have attempted to storm the BBC in Manchester. More than 800 people marched through the city centre and down Oxford Road, where the crowd surged at the BBC’s entrance, smashing its front doors, there were at least three arrests”.

In truth, only ONE window was cracked, which was quickly taped up and it is unclear just how this occurred since the area in question was surrounded by police welding truncheons. When protesters quizzed the police about their heavy-handed tactics, they pointed to the heavily guarded “smashed door” behind them. It is puzzling they couldn’t identify who was responsible. An elderly gentleman sat waiting for a bus over the road suggested “maybe the police did it?”…

Respect Party Placard at Gaza Demo in Manchester 2010

Those arrested were detained in police custody overnight, one was released around lunchtime, two others were charged with “suspicion of assault” and a “racially-aggravated public order offence”.

BBC Manchester later updated it’s homepage, having decided the surge involved “over 1,000 people”. Legal observers estimated the figure was closer to 1,500. The following morning their local news bulletin claimed the figure was in the “thousands.” (see video clip below)

In yet another report posted later that morning, the BBC had changed their minds once more claiming there were “hundreds of protesters“. It seems they have a problem with basic arithmetic.

The bottom line is: if the BBC and other news agencies simply don’t care about accurate reporting on their own door-step. How can they be trusted to rely the truth surrounding events unfolding thousands of miles away? Is it any wonder people are so enraged?

Meanwhile, somewhere (possibly on an Israeli war-ship!) in the Mediterranean over 700 aid workers including citizens from at least dozens of nations, including at least 28 British nationals, Journalists, Lawyers, Doctors and even three German MPs are being detained. Their fate and safety remains unknown.

(video clips of the event will be uploaded here shortly)

Thousands of people marched through Manchester, approaching St Peter's Square and the Peace Gardens

(video clips of the event will be uploaded here shortly)