In response to the murderous Israeli Defence Force attack on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza, Bangor and Ynys Môn (Anglesey) Peace & Justice Group were quickly into action.
On 1 June, the group visited Waitrose in Menai Bridge. More than 20 activists turned out to support, a very respectable number for an area like ours.
We began at 3.30pm by handing out boycott flyers, which were well received with almost all shoppers nodding agreement as they took the leaflets. We were visited by the store managers who politely asked us not to leaflet on their premises, a request which we equally politely felt unable to comply with, since we would not have been able to meet most shoppers without being adjacent to the main doors of the store.
When a little later we brought out the placards, the police arrived and amicable discussions resulted in a compromise where we continued to leaflet on the premises, but the placard holders occupied the public pavement a few yards from the store entrance.
By 5.30pm we had exhausted our supply of leaflets and so after a final chat with store security we left.
It might be an exaggeration to say that Waitrose were happy with our visit or that they would welcome us back but both parties and the police maintained reasonable relations.
On 5 June, the Peace & Justice Group organised a rally and a march led by the samba drummers of Batala Bangor. The marchers began at the Islamic Centre, proceeding to the cathedral and ending at the clock tower in the city centre, where a crowd of around 80 gathered, with a wide cross section of supporters from across Gwynedd, Ynys Môn and Conwy.
Inevitably the murder of peace activists on the Gaza flotilla was uppermost in people’s minds, but the emphasis was broader – a call for lifting the siege of Gaza and for essential humanitarian aid to be restored to the many thousands of children and other citizens, whose lives have been ever more wretched since the horrors of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2009.
Speakers, introduced by Linda Rogers, included John Butler, former Anglican chaplain to Bangor University, who has played such an important role in building links with the Palestinian Territories in recent years.
Butler launched an impassioned criticism of Israeli government policies in Gaza and the West Bank. He also criticised the BBC for the pro-Israeli bias of their reporting. Hywel Williams MP (Plaid Cymru), whose new constituency now includes Bangor as well as Caernarfon, gave a forthright commitment to support for humanitarian aid and an end to the siege of Gaza, and called for justice for the Palestinians. Speakers from the Islamic Centre urged an end to the siege and Israel’s flouting of international law.