On Saturday afternoon up to 80 people chanted and held aloft flags as speakers spoke passionately and called for Palestine to have ‘freedom’ following the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in May that is thought to have killed at least 248 Palestinians and injured thousands.
Members of Portsmouth and South Downs Palestine Solidarity Campaign left Guildhall Square with a security escort, and headed to Somers Town, and then walked to Castle Field via Elm Grove and Palmerston Road where they held a further rally.
As well as calling for the freedom of Palestine, protesters were calling for an end to the UK and other G7 governments’ arms trade with Israel with the demonstration coming as the G7 summit was held in Cornwall.
Protesters said Britain and the G7 countries effectively support ‘Israel’s violations by being the biggest suppliers of arms and military technology’ to the country, which are ‘vital in enforcing Israel’s regime of oppression’.
The protest was the fourth in just the last six weeks in Portsmouth as Palestine supporters joined forces with hundreds across the country.
Gabriel Scaletta, 31, moved to Portsmouth from the West Bank in the besieged region in 2005 with his mum and has not been able to return home since.
‘I was young when I came here and had seen a lot of bad things as a child. It is the worst place in the world,’ he said.
‘It’s horrible what happens there and is against humanity. The way they treat you is not as equals. It is getting worse and has kicked off again recently. We have to live together with the Israelis. It is very messy.
‘I wish I could go back and see my family and visit Jerusalem. We have to meet family in Jordan.’
He added: ‘We are here today to change things in the city. The British government supports Israel by providing weapons for them. We have to change our government here and stop them supporting this racist regime.
‘We are glad we have support in Britain and hope we can raise awareness of what is happening.’
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Mark Sage, organiser of the group, said while fighting had been ongoing between Israel and Palestine since the 19th century, things had escalated recently with raids that had killed children. ‘We need to build a movement to bring people together and push forward our cause,’ he said.
‘If British people do not agree with what’s happening then they have a responsibility to show their support.’
During an 11-day conflict in May rockets were launched both by Israel and by Hamas, the militant group that effectively governs the West Bank. At least 256 people were killed in Gaza, the UN says, and 13 people in Israel. Both sides claimed victory.
To reinforce the message, protester Angus Geddes was holding a banner stating that 1,257 Palestinian children had been killed since 2008 in the war. In total, over 5,000 Palestinians had been killed in the same period, while 250 Israelis had died.
Palestine supporter Mos Hannan, 21, of Southsea, added: ‘It’s been good to see such a big turnout.
‘Parliament is debating its arms trade with Israel so we want the government to cease its arms trade with Israel because those weapons are killing Palestine people.’