Nonviolence veteran beaten by police Gaza actions

IssueFebruary 2009
News by Ray Davies, Wendy Lewis

On 10 January 100,000 people from all over Britain joined a march in London to protest at the Israeli embassy against the continuing relentless attacks on Gaza’s civilian population.

Ray Davies, 79-year-old vice-chair of CND Cymru, sustained head injuries, concussion and cuts when he was trapped with hundreds of others against the embassy gates by the Metropolitan Police.

The march had gone peacefully until it reached the embassy. Many shoes were thrown over the fence in a symbolic gesture of defiance. But the police claimed that the shoes were aimed at them and began to lash out at the crowd.

Three rows of police, in full riot gear and with heavy shields, penned a section of the protestors in an alleyway beside the Israeli embassy.

Ray tried to negotiate between the protestors and the police. He explained that the police had not been the target of the shoes, and asked to be allowed to pass through in order to deliver a letter to the ambassador calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In response, the special riot police shouted obscenities at Ray, ordering him to “Get back with the rest of the scum!”

Scuffles broke out, and the heavy steel barriers around the embassy were pushed over. Ray, at the front of the march, was unable to escape, and two policemen hit him on the head with truncheons, cut him on the face with the sharp edge of the heavy riot shields, and proceeded to kick him to the ground, bleeding with cuts on his nose and hands.

Medics pleaded to be allowed to take an unconscious Ray to hospital. When he regained consciousness, however, he chose to get back home on the bus rather than spend the night in a London casualty unit. Ray was finally treated at the University Hospital of Wales, and discharged. He said: “I have experienced the war zones in the Occupied Territories; I have been shot at, tear-gassed and beaten by the Israeli Defence Force… but I never expected such abuse and brutal treatment in Britain from our own police force.”

Welsh action

The violent reaction to the march was in complete contrast to the peaceful protests held throughout the past weeks in Wales.

There have been two vigils in memory of the victims of Israel’s bombing of Gaza; a fundraising concert with Frankie Armstrong, which raised £1,200 for Middle East Children’s Alliance and a successful fundraising dinner at City Hall for the Islamic Relief fund.

A march and rally calling for a ceasefire in Gaza was one of the biggest Cardiff has seen in many years.

A brief roundup of some more Gaza actions in Wales: demonstration, Swansea; demonstration, Wrexham; vigil, Women in Black, Aberystwyth; street singing, Côr Gobaith, Aberystwyth; street action and public meeting, Bangor; protest march, Newport, Gwent; vigil, Brecon; public meeting, Bro Emlyn; vigil, Llandudno; lobby, Cardiff; picket of Tesco, Caernarfon…

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