Multi-cultural city

Rally for Gaza in Derby; Missed opportunity to promote cohesion

6X4A8307DerbyNews_wm2 weeks after a national demonstration in London in support of the Palestinians in Gaza, Derby held its own version on 23 August 2014. The group of about 150 people, mainly Muslims, gathered outside the Jamia Mosque on Rose Hill Street in Arboretum/Normanton. The march left at about 11.30am and made its way up Normanton Road towards the Council Offices, where a rally was held. There were many speakers including people from the Mosque, Councillors, MP’s, and representatives from the organizing groups of Derby People’s Assembly and Indian Worker’s Association.

The London event was attended by about 50,000+ people walking through the streets to Hyde Park. This included 5 bus loads of protestors from Derby. It is the natural urge of people in this country to protest about anything that they feel strongly about regardless of whether it will remotely influence the decision makers. Nonetheless it makes sense to have a combined protest, on an international subject, in London ….so why have one in Derby.

It’s not really clear who this protest was aimed at. It was supported by Ranjit Banwait ( Leader of the Council), and a number of other Labour councilors and an MP, so it was not directed at those who represent the City. It was not explicitly supporting Hamas, but highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Most right thinking people would support this cause.

A number of the speakers tried to suggest that it was encouraging that the protest was supported by a broad cross-section of the community. This was more based on wishful thinking, than reality. The vast majority were from the Muslim community. There were no Chinese, no Black African Caribbean, no East Europeans, very few white British people– it was not a cross section of the community. As the march passed the top of Normanton Road, a woman passer-by shouted at the top of her voice “Where are the women?! Where are the women?!”. There were women at the event, but noticeably few.

The march was headed by a few religious leaders from the mosque. A young man who saw the demonstration on St. Peter’s Street shouted to the general public, and at the marchers – “After what ISIS have done…fuck ‘em all!” Although distasteful, this was inevitable from some sections of the community.

Most of the speeches were bland, and predictable. They did not educate, enlighten or inspire. The event didn’t engage with anyone beyond the attendees – it felt unusually self-indulgent. Ranjit Banwait was slightly surreal when he said that “ We are going to walk in an olive branch of friendship”.


The most disappointing aspect about this event was the missed opportunity. It could have been original and creative about the way that Derby views the many conflicts in the world, not just Palestine. Innocent people and children are, sadly, being killed all over the world. Derby is home to people from nationalities who have associations with many of these wars. People throughout the city will have consciences beyond the well-protested Palestine issue. If next week there was a demonstration on the killings in Donetsk, East Ukraine, and then Syria, followed by Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya, Russia etc then we would be demonstrating our global credentials. It might actually be more engaging for a broader cross-section of people.

The images of Gaza are terrible, but no more so than other areas of the world. Palestine has become the cause celebre for the vocal political left, and anyone who suggests that “We are all Palestinians” to a non-Muslim/Palestinian audience is showing their naivite about how the wider public are thinking in these difficult times. It is more divisive than they may realise.

This should not be about arguing whose cause is more worthy, or chanting questionable rhetoric. We are entering potentially dangerous times. We should be involved in activities that promote cohesion across Derby, not ones that will alienate some parts of the City.

8 replies »

  1. I am astounded and shocked by the Russell Pollard report. It is sanctimonious, to say the least. It mixes some truth with poor judgement. Comment is cheap but it is making things happen that count.

    I was one of the people who went on the demonstration in London a fortnight ago. We said let’s not waste this, let’s try and raise the issue locally, in whatever way we can. So we set out to organise things, and it turned out to be a march. A group of us met, mainly white non Muslim folk. Your report is a somewhat misleading. The majority of the people who spoke on the platform were not Muslim. There were people from the Green Party, from anti-cuts committees, teachers from the NUT, from the Derby people’s assembly, a South African (myself) who teased out the comparison with the Anti-Apartheid struggles and, very movingly, a Jewish survivor from the holocaust. Quite a few women spoke. Not enough. As organisers we asked Christians from a number of organisations to speak. There were people from the Church of England and from Justices and Peace on the march, but they did not want to speak. The reasons were varied – discussions took place- but at least they were invited and we as the organisers recognise that this is an aspect to be worked on.

    But the whole intention of the march was let’s see what we can do at short notice with relatively few resources. the fact is that we organised a very spirited and moving march, one of the best I have been on. Would you r commentator rather that nothing organised? Russell goes on about how the message was general, about linking communities. Precisely. That is critical at this stage when there are so many divisions, so much fear. But we saw this march as but one step. The next meeting is open to all, and is at the Jamia mosque at Rosehill Street tonight night at 7 pm. (Russell if you cannot make it please contact us – you have my email – and join in). We will be talking about how we work with people from other faiths. And organising protests outside supermarkets which sell Israeli produce. In my opinion the most likely outcome is that we will be sitting up a Palestine support group. We also asked people to supply their email addresses and phone numbers so that they can become involved. I am not aware of Russell Pollard coming forward.

    Russell suggests we should be jumping up and down about the other atrocities. Having a march about Gaza does not mean we are ignoring other atrocities or downplaying their importance. What’s the alternative? Do nothing? Have a demonstration about all of them? Russell says that worthy Palestine has become the ‘cause celebre for the vocal political left. However Palestine is a just a little bit different; Western Governments have spent billions in supporting the creation of a state at the expense of the Palestinian people.

    In my view the march was inspiring. Exhilarating. It was an attempt to reach out. Yes more needs to done. Yes there were some negative comments. But it was an example of seizing an opportunity, To talk about missed opportunities is to miss the point entirely. The march helped show us where the support was a step towards building links communities and of course learning from it. In this context is it better to do and learn than to carp. Yes lets learn: but together!

    • Peter

      Thanks for your response.

      A few brief comments

      1. My reference to the majority of the people being Muslim referred to the attendees, not the speakers. That’s not a criticism, just an observation.
      2. You say that “Palestine is a little bit different”. I don’t think any 2 conflicts are the same – they are all different, and Western Governments will be complicit in most/all of them in some shape or form. It doesn’t feel right that one is seen to be more favoured when they all involve innocent people being killed.
      3. I do think if an organisation wishes to be considered to be serious about promoting peace it can’ t do that on the back of one issue, only. I also believe that, in a multi-cultural City like Derby, that being conscientious across a spectrum of conflicts would be seen to be a more inclusive approach.
      4. You mention about boycotting Israeli products in locals shops. Is that all products with an Israeli connection as the list is extensive? How effective is this likely to be if its too selective?
      You could argue that the biggest problem to resolving the whole issue is Hamas which is widely considered to be a terrorist group. If they were replaced by an organisation that was credible, internationally, then there may be more meaningful progress for the people of Palestine. Are you planning anti-Hamas activities?



      • Hiya Me and my son and grandson marched during this march, we think that because the people of Gaza are in fact imprisoned inside Gaza and having bombs dropped on their heads daily that this IS different to the rest of the conflicts around the world, “conflict’ being the operative word, this is NOT a conflict it is mass genocide and we should stand up for the children being slaughtered on a daily basis, if we do not have empathy we have NOTHING!

        This was not against religion or for it, I am of no religion….. I AM HUMAN!

        Israel has NO right to defend itself from resistance as per the Geneva Convention, Israel or should I say the zionist government of Israel (many Israelis are also against this!) are WORSE than the nazis, at least the nazis did not sit at a distance drinking and cheering as bombs slaughtered the captive children of Gaza

        Israel itself did exactly the same as the Palestinians are doing during the last war they are resisting extermination, were they then not terrorists?

        This is NOT about Hammas as the slaughter started well before Hammas was created, it was in fact created because of the continual slaughter, what are the people of Palestine supposed to do, die fighting or die bombed as they sleep? Palestine has NEVER had any war machine, never had an army, navy or airforce, and we supply the oppressor on demand, the blood is also on our hands and we need to show to the world that we do NOT support this, I certainly DO NOT, NOT in MY name CaMoron!

        This government and indeed MANY governments that are taking back handers from these zionists and will repent at their leisure I fear

        Any ‘normal’ person of whatever race, colour, creed or religion should stand united against ALL wars, as the zionist bankers are ALWAYS funding BOTH sides, we should be saying NO MORE will our ‘poor’ sons fight in ‘rich’ mens wars

        This is the classic ‘poor people killing poor people to make rich men richer’

        END IT NOW! Peace can unite the world, war will always divide it

  2. Mr. Pollard, you have fallen into the same trap that the majority of journalists have in our country, although you have come from a different direction. Do you not want to spread the TRUTH? You need to look into our policies in the middle east and throughout the world in the past century then write educated articles rather than these wanton defamatory comments. If you do this you will realise quite quickly that MANY of the atrocities happening today and in the past are linked (behind the scenes in most cases) to Israeli Government/Zionist entities. Whether that be them supplyjng financial aid or weapons and equipment, to the perpetrators of such atrocities. You my friend are either a bad journalist or just ‘on the payroll’ as some would put it. Its a shame our media has been sold out for such a long time.

      • Palestinian issue for starters cannot be interpreted as a conflict especially as it is portrayed as two equally matched Armies hamas the democratically elected government of Gaza has no navy no army weapons airforce or billion pound backing has been under seize for numerous years in effect an open air prison it is clearly a massacre for which hamas are doing their level best to defend it’s electorate The difference with this so called “conflict” is that it’s been going on for over 60 yrs.Nobody seems to send in airstrikes against Israel.One journalist is killed in Iraq allegedly by islamic state and it’s labelled as barbaric by world leaders yet 600 children killed in gaza in the past month that’s seen as the fault of hamas for firing rockets from.populated areas gaza is the size of derby with 1.8 million ppl Ofcourse they are going to resist from a populated area as that is all they have what can they do fire from a fishing boat? The likes of Cameron and Obama are complicit in child killing for supplying the arms to Israel how they will look into the eyes of their own children after slaughtering the children of their fellow parents…

  3. Those fools that make comparisons between isis and Zionists entity are seriously deluded isis asked for Christians to convert to islam or pay a small tax for their upkeep amenities security etc yet th christian the s decided to fight them resulting in the situation they find themselves in.Now the world powers are at their assistance overnight.Yet the Zionists have imprisoned tortured starved gazansinto retaliation inorder to committe genocide and blame the victims There is no comparison Israeli Zionists is the most evil cancerous entity in the history of this plant and needs to be stopped and Cameron an Obama are going to war with isis through the backdoor and trying to generate public approval by bombarding the public with alleged journalist death or Christians who.don’t want to pay their upkeepisis seem to be welcomed better than America was so that shows they can’t be that bad…

  4. Where’s the women? Bystander shouts for starters approx 25% were women secondly where’s your conscience should have been reply.25000 ppl can gather to watch 22 rich grown men kick a piece of leather on weekends an pay for it too.but children being slaughtered and we can’t get out of bedwell done to the 150 ppl with a conscious

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