Palestine Action Group fully supports the HSBC 3 defence campaign and its demands to stop political policing in Newcastle and drop the charges against the 3 anti-cuts activists.
Palestine activists in Britain have also had experience of political policing. Two years ago Israel brutally invaded Gaza. At least 1,400 Palestinians died in Israel’s Operation ‘Cast Lead’; 5,500 were injured and tens of thousands left homeless. In Britain thousands of people took to the streets to protest against Israeli war crimes and Britain’s own complicity in them. In London demonstrators were treated like criminals and the police took names, addresses and photographs of as many protesters as possible, including children. Dogs, horses and riot police were used to intimidate protesters and force was used against them, including against children and the elderly. Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) were deployed on these demonstrations, and people were physically kettled and not allowed to leave unless they gave their details and had their photograph taken for police files.
Though the demonstrations were composed of a hugely diverse range of people, the vast majority of those targeted for arrest were young people from Muslim communities.Of the 79 charged, 77 were Muslim, mostly under 25 years old; the youngest only 12. Many arrests occurred in dawn raids almost 6 months later. In some cases entire families were handcuffed during the arrest. This was a clear example of political policing, both in who was targeted and how the arrests were carried out.
Many of the young people arrested were pressured both by the presiding judge and their own solicitors to plead guilty to the offences with which they were charged, with the expectation of receiving minor sentences. However, they subsequently received harsh and disproportionate sentences. A dental student who threw a plastic bottle in the direction of the Israeli embassy received a 12-month prison sentence. These sentences were only later reduced on appeal.
In Palestine, peaceful demonstrators routinely face severe repression, much more so than in Britain at this time. Since 2005, 21 activists have been killed by the Israeli army while protesting against the illegal apartheid wall, which is being constructed to annex more and more Palestinian land. The most recent victim was called Jawaher Abu Rahmeh: she was was killed on 1st January 2011 in Bi’lin after inhaling too much tear gas.
The HSBC 3 were protesting against some of the same companies which are complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, such as Marks & Spencer. It is great that the links are being made between the attacks on the working class at home and internationally. It is inspiring that these young people are undeterred by the police’s attempts to intimidate them.
Justice for the Gaza demonstrators! Justice for Palestine! Justice for the HSBC 3!
Palestine Action Group