This was written for the London Indymedia web site in London, Ontario. (An additional image was included in the original article)
Last Saturday, July 22, thousands of Londoners joined a demonstration against Israeli attacks on civilians in Lebanon and Gaza. This rally for peace was part of a much broader International Day of Action Against Israeli Aggression — including at least a dozen demonstrations in Canada.
The event consisted of music and a series of speeches, followed by a relatively “silent march” through the streets of downtown London—albeit without filling Dundas or other major streets, while also avoiding the folk festival at Victoria Park. The rally certainly was not aggressive.
Many demonstrators brought Lebanese flags, thus indicating ties to the region. Canadian flags were a common sight as well. Palestinian flags were displayed, but not in great numbers. However, contrary to reports published by the London Free Press (the editors of which evidently are not averse to publishing letters that contain blatant lies), Hezbollah flags were not part of the rally. Although an anti-Hezbollah flag and a pro-Hezbollah flag were brought to the demonstration, the individuals carrying these agreed to remove the flags from the event when approached.
The London demonstration was called by the Association of London Muslims with support from other groups. The Muslim association was responsible for most of the organizing, and they set the tone of the demonstration by stressing the view that “politics” should not be brought to the event. Most of the speakers at the demonstration took this approach, focusing on the need for a ceasefire for the sake of the victims of the conflict, without addressing the government and party politics behind the current offensive as well as any future resolution. Yet, speakers — particularly Lorraine McNeill — along with sign-carriers, drew occasional criticism toward the Conservative government and the allied Bush administration and State of Israel. Of course, such government politics clashed with some organizers’ visions for the event. These disagreements had also been part of pre-event organizing meetings.
After participating in these meetings on behalf of People for Peace, David Heap observes, “Coalition building is always a delicate exercise that requires diplomacy and patience; in this case, working to develop a common front with the many organisations involved in the Association of London Muslims was an interesting challenge, but one that was certainly worth the time required, and hopefully an effort that can be built on for the future.” The July 22 demonstration displayed and resulted from an extraordinary unity (in spite of any differences) between the Muslim community and peace activists.
Food Not Bombs joined the demonstration by preparing a pamphlet and food for the event.
Prior to the Saturday rally, thousands of event flyers were distributed — many at the downtown folk festival. While we can’t be sure how many people attended the demonstration because of these flyers, we can be certain that these efforts encouraged the public to take a critical — if not an activist — stance toward the recent attacks on Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, and toward inadequate efforts to protect these victims. Some flyers included contact information for Canadian MPs in order to promote and facilitate public pressure on the government to intervene in the recent Israeli offensive (if only by evacuating Canadians — the sole concern of far too many of us in Canada).
Just over a week after the July 22 demonstration, on the following Sunday, there was a peace vigil at Victoria Park. Other London events have since been organized in support of civilians in Lebanon and Gaza.
(This article was written with input from several local activists.)
(Completed August 4)
Related material on this London Indymedia web site: (Dead links)
- Letters to the London Free Press, in response to other letters printed there
- Wa’el Haddara responds to a London Free Press letter
Here are subsequent posts that offer more rounded perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian situation -
- “A shared Palestinian-Israeli future”
- “Calling for peace”
- “In Israel during the siege of Gaza”
- “Tel Aviv liberals”
Other posts about hose issues will show up here -