Correspondence: Palestine demo in Belfast
31 May 2021
Palestine Solidarity demo, Custom House Sqaure, Belfast
I normally read your site and I agree with much that I read, but when I read your report of the Gaza demonstration, I was quite disappointed.
On my way to the meeting, I walked past the City hall. The frontage was dominated by about 20 right wing anti-vaxxers screaming and shouting. I walked on to the backwater of Custom House Square and found a demo clearly organised by People before Profit. In contrast to the in-your-face anti-vaxxer demo I found an exaggerated legalism, with people asked to stand on carefully measured squares to avoid any suggestion of breaching covid regulations.
You came close to the truth when you pointed out that much bigger demonstrations have been held in the past, but these were organised by trade union leaders. It seems to me self-evident that the union leaders have retreated from situations where they might find themselves in conflict with loyalism. That has meant retreating from the City Hall, from political demonstrations generally and deputising the left, especially People before Profit, to act in their place.
That could be an opportunity for the left, but only if they were able to push past the caution of the union leaders and organise the young people who have mobilised. The anodyne demonstration around Gaza, and the recent Black Lives Matter demonstration, shows they have no intention of doing this.
There is only one test of solidarity and that is: What comes next? With exception of a small group organising in areas the answer is nothing.
You are right to say that a new solidarity is needed. You really should have said that groups not calling for that are more than likely to be an obstacle to such a movement. The first BLM demo at City Hall had the cops hopping. At the Gaza meeting they were able to doze on the side-lines.