|Volume 53 Number 31, November 18, 2023
On Friday, November 3, hundreds of school students gathered at Bristol's College Green to show solidarity with Palestinian children killed and injured as Gaza is besieged by Israel and coming under aerial bombardment and to demand a ceasefire now.
The event was organised by School Strike for Palestine in Bristol, with support from Bristol Stop the War Coalition, Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and the Green Party. The rally, held from 11am to 2pm, was attended by hundreds of school children and their parents, who held placards and banners calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Among those who addressed the rally were pupils from local schools, across all ages from reception to sixth form. A petition was signed demanding Bristol MPs call for a ceasefire, which was delivered to Labour mayor Marvin Rees at City Hall. On the railings of City Hall, the school students tied thousands of ribbons in the red, white and green of the Palestinian flag, to represent each child killed in Gaza since the onslaught began.
School Strike for Palestine is determined to bring attention to what is happening in the region and plans to continue holding demonstrations outside City Hall every Friday at 11am until MPs call for a ceasefire. A UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire passed on October 29, but Britain shamefully abstained. None of Bristol's four Labour MPs have joined the calls for a ceasefire.
"As the situation in Gaza intensifies, we are deeply concerned our leaders are gravely failing a vulnerable and disempowered population by enabling a deliberately disproportionate attack, resulting in collective punishment and a devastating loss of life," said a spokesperson for Schools Strike for Palestine. "Whatever our faith or politics, we wish to unite for the preservation and protection of children and families, and collectively demand a ceasefire right now."
Also on November 3, some 300 school students boycotted an assembly with Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting over his and Labour's stance on Palestine and refusal to call for a ceasefire. The 17 and 18-year-olds at Beal High School in Ilford, east London, either refused to attend or walked out of the assembly. School management drafted in younger pupils to make up the numbers, with only around 20 year 13 students agreeing to attend. The action was initiated by parents who wanted their children's views on Israel's genocide to be heard. Streeting was scheduled to speak to sixth form students at an assembly on Friday, but students mobilised for them not to attend.
"We heard Wes Streeting would be coming down to do a talk on university and personal statements," one year 13 student told Novara Media. "But as a year group, we wanted to show our support to those in Palestine. Keir Starmer [has] stated he does not support calls for a ceasefire. None of us agreed with this, so collectively we showed our position by not attending."
Sources: Instagram @schoolstrikeforpalestine, Bristol24/7, Bristol Post, Epigram, Novara Media, Socialist Worker.