Report and photos by Jack Staunton
On the evening of Thursday 29th January a 100-strong demonstration took place outside a building hosting a meeting addressed by Israeli army (IDF) colonel Geva Rapp. The colonel had planned to come and advertise a pro-war book, tell stories of his military career and preach “unity among Israelis”, but anti-war activists stopped the event going ahead.
The turnout – overwhelmingly young people – was quite impressive given that the protests were organised with just a few hours’ advance notice of the meeting taking place. The IDF propaganda rally had not been publicly advertised, but a leaked circular email explained:
“London Jsocs will be hosting Colonel Geva Rapp, the head of the ground operations in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead)! This talk should be extremely interesting and valuable. However, please do not talk about this event on facebook due to security concerns and current high tension surrounding the conflict.”
True, the organisers were exaggerating somewhat the role of Geva Rapp in the war: but nonetheless succeeded in displaying their enthusiasm for the attack on the Palestinians and furthermore no doubt their “editorialising” helped attract more people to the anti-war demonstration. Some (blurry) photos and comments on the action below:
Around two dozen police, along with eight Israeli security men with earpieces, guarded the front door of the building where the meeting was due to take place. Protesters outside the building on London’s Euston Road enthusiastically shouted “Free, Free, Palestine”, “Viva Palestina” and slogans and chants attacking Rapp as a war criminal. The Socialist Workers Party had a meeting on Gaza a couple of doors down at Friends’ Meeting House, but only a couple of their activists were in presence and, no doubt due to the short notice for the action, few people were selling left groups’ materials or leafletting.
The police soon attempted to clear the street, prompting a sit-down by about fifteen people, mostly anarchists. Three were dragged away from the picket.
This man – who, it was reported with some excitement, had previously been arrested by US troops in Iraq for his protests – scaled the wall of an adjacent restaurant…
… and, placard in hand, shimmied along a ledge up to the meeting venue, banging on the windows. He stayed up there for around an hour, with the crowd continuing to chant in full voice, including “Solidarity with the man on the roof!”
The police had repeatedly called on the crowd to disperse or face arrest. The news from a contact inside the building that the meeting had been cancelled, as well as police comments to the same effect, led to most people’s departure. However, a few dozen stayed, shouting at the police “You go first”… and in scuffles as the police tried to break up the picket and pushed demonstrators away from the building, three people were arrested. Indeed a number of police and the rabble of security guards stayed behind after the Euston Road area had been cleared, raising some doubts over the claim that we had been successful in preventing the meeting taking place.
One Stop the War legal observer was punched by a woman constable, prompting this PC to comment “If you don’t want to get assaulted, don’t come here”.