End the Siege of Gaza – Another Demo

Around 50 people turned up to protest opposite Downing Street on a wet and wintry Saturday afternoon (5 April 2008) calling for and end to the Israeli siege of Gaza. The measures imposed in September 2007 are an illegal collective punishment against the population and have already resulted in many dying.

At Downing st

The demonstration was one in a series organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign , which calls on the British government to end the arms trade with Israel, and to press Israel to abide by international law, end its illegal occupation and allow the return of refugees.

Man with Palestinian flag

While the demonstration was taking place on the opposite side of the road with friendly cooperation from the police, one young man with a Palestinian flag went and stood on the pavement outside the gates to Downing Street. He was pulled to one side and questioned, and his flag taken from him and dropped on the ground, the officers explaining to him that because of the SOCPA law he was not allowed to demonstrate there. He picked up the flag again, and one of the officers swore at him, grabbed the flag out of his hands and dropped it on the pavement.

While I was there the man with the flag was informed that he was being stopped and searched under (I think) section 44 of the Terrorism Act, 2000. I could see no evidence of any specific terrorist threat in his behaviour that would justify this – waving a flag is not terrorism.

Another officer moved in front of me to prevent me from photographing this and on learning that I was press insisted I move further away as he alleged I was interfering with the actions of the police – although I was clearly at a reasonable distance by this time. After making my opinion clear I moved back as ordered.

At this point a woman officer came up and held her hand in front of my lens. I told her that this was illegal and that one of the senior officers in the Met had told a colleague that he would consider it “a sacking offence” and she hurriedly moved off across the road and away from the area. Unfortunately I failed to get her number, or that of the other officer who impeded me – I was still busy trying to take pictures.

I left and returned across the road where the protest was continuing. The man was still being held by the police when I left the area. You can see more pictures from the demonstration on My London Diary.

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