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London: Big demo in Westminster yesterday for Kobane (UK)

via rabble ldn:

Yesterday (Saturday 11 October) over 10,000 Kurds were demonstrating in Parliament Square and Whitehall in solidarity with the fighters defending Kobane.

The demo was very largely Kurdish. Lots of green and yellow flags of Rojava (the revolutionary Western Kurdistan area under attack by ISIS), and banners of PKK leader Ocalan. People of all ages, lots of very energetic North London Kurdish kids, alongside grandparents. Chants in Kurdish and English included: ‘We are YPG, YPG is us’, ‘We are Kobane, Kobane is us’, ‘ISIS terrorists’, and ‘Wake up UK’. Along with the Kurds there was just a scattering of Turkish and English leftists. Clearly a big challenge for the Kurdish solidarity movement in London is to get more support from outside the North London Kurdish community.

The demo assembled in Parliament Square at 2pm. At the same time, there was another smaller crowd gathering against the TTIP free trade agreement between Europe and the US. Without wanting to stereotype, this one seemed very white middle class student and NGO worker. Some placards from the online petition site 38 degrees, and a lot of leaflets about the next ‘climate march’. They had a samba band, and a lot of speeches.

Around 3pm or so the Kurdish demo started to move off into Whitehall. But it soon ground to a halt as something flared up at the back. It seems the cops had started stopping and searching some young Kurdish lads back in Parliament Square. Then they grabbed a few people, surrounding them at the side wall of the square around of TSG (Territorial Support Group) riot vans. Others went to their aid, and the cops started lashing out pretty wildly with their batons. More people from the march started running back to help, but it was too late to stop by the TSG riot moving and surrounded the area with dozens of cops, batons out.

At the same time, some Kurdish march stewards in yellow high-vis vests were trying to calm down the crowd or even convince people to walk away and get back to marching down Whitehall. They did succeed in calming the atmosphere somewhat, as did police reinforcements who plainly now controlled the area around the guys they had arrested and kept pinned up against their vans. But the march did not march on. Instead, hundreds of demonstrators stayed there around the cop line, and some began to sit down in the street to make sure the road was blocked and the cops could not drive their captives out. Others stayed standing, and shouting ‘No Justice, No Peace, Fuck the Police’.

This stand-off went on for half an hour or more. If the main body of the march had come back they could well have surrounded the police from the other side and forced them to release their hostages, but this didn’t happen. It was just a prolonged tense stand-off, until after a while the police managed to clear traffic at the back of the square and reverse their vans with the arrested comrades out the other way.

There was a moment when it seemed like the TTIP march, led by a loud samba band, was moving to the area to bring reinforcements. The drums were getting closer, the banners arriving … and then instead they walked straight past and off across Westminster Bridge. The anti-TTIP organisers, at least, were well aware of what was going down, as would anyone have been who had their eyes open enough to see riot cops rushing in to attack the Kurdish crowd. But no solidarity whatsoever. The same old story, and a pretty sad parallel of the whole situation the Kurds were there to demonstrate about.

After the cops drove out, and the ‘elders’ had calmed things down, things went off peacefully for the rest of the march. The demo processed down Whitehall, turned onto the river, and came back to Parliament Square again.

This was the biggest Kurdish demo in London for some years. And the young Kurds are doing demos and actions every day in London now. The energy, anger and passion of the Kurdish youth is powerful. But shouting ‘Wake Up UK’ in the government district of central London doesn’t seem enough to rouse even supposed radicals like the anti-TTIP crowd to their side. There’s a lot more to be done.

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 8:57 pm and is filed under Anti-Fascist.