Marching in solidarity

Saturday April 20 in Birmingham saw an excellent and angry demonstration calling for justice for the Palestinians. This was supported by the Muslim Association of Britain, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition. Over 1,500 people turned up for the rally, which is the largest turnout for this issue that Birmingham has ever seen. The speakers were all very good with a particular passionate speech from a recently returned delegate from an international solidarity visit to Palestine. There was a largely peaceful demonstration, albeit not down the main pathways of the city centre due to the instructions of the police. It would have been good to end this report on a positive note. However, the irresponsible antics of the Socialist Workers Party can not pass by unmentioned. During the course of the demonstration three young men were hauled out of the crowd, arrested and taken to the nearby police station. When the demonstration returned to the rally point, people were angry at the arrests. However, key members of the SWP used the opportunity to whip the youths up into an even more passionate mood. Lines of police then formed. It should be noted that many people on the demonstration had taken their babies and children with them. Seeing the danger that, should the police charge, youths would run back and children could be trampled on, a PSC activist went to plead with the SWP comrade on the megaphone to cease chanting inflammatory slogans. The SWP laughed in the face of the PSC activist. Then, as predicted, the police did baton the first few lines of the youth. They fled backwards. A pram with a baby in it was overturned and there was panic, especially amongst parents trying to protect their children. Afterwards PSC activists confronted the SWP comrades over their actions. Again the SWP seemed to think there was something funny. It was sad to note that over the past year (when the current full-timer assumed control) the SWP in Birmingham has developed into a nasty sectarian bunch. They have split the Stop the War Coalition into two, and smeared political opponents in a manner that even the bourgeois parties would not tolerate. Recently a number of longstanding and respected SWP members have left the organisation, disgusted at the vicious sectarianism of the full-timer. However, on April 20 the SWP crossed a line. Putting people at risk and then sneering at those who complain marks a new low. Steven Davies