UNIVERSITY OF Edinburgh students gathered in force last Thursday in protest against the continuing violence in Gaza.
Over two hundred students who expressed their contempt towards the violence and occupation of Gaza attended the protest, led by the Palestine Solidarity Society.
The protest began at 1.30pm in Bristo Square, which took a tour around the George Square campus. The protest was followed up with the organisers of the protest, from the Palestine Solidarity Society and representatives from the university’s Stop the War Coalition, and People and Planet, presenting an open letter, which was signed by students, to an MSP at the Scottish Parliament.
Students displayed anti-war signs and chanted “End the siege in Gaza. Ceasefire now!” as they called for an end to the bloodshed with an immediate withdrawal of Israeli military from Gaza.
Shabana Basheer, president of Palestine Solidarity Society and one of the main organisers of the events, was amazed with the amount of student support. She said “I think there were a lot of people who wouldn’t normally be moved to protest, but the level of feeling against the war in Gaza is so high that they wanted to make their voices heard.”
Students were eager to show their support for ceasefire in Gaza, and the large number remained peaceful. Police presence was felt to be excessive with around 20 police officers attending the protest equipped with video cameras and batons. Students felt ‘intimidated’ by the police presence. Humphrey Wood, a representative from People and Planet, said “police intervention prevented the protest from marching through Edinburgh and appearing in front of Scottish Government. In this light the police presence was extremely negative and lessened the impact of the protest to the general public and the Scottish parliament itself.”
Women in Black students also staged a women-only silent protest in the square on Wednesday afternoon. Women in Black is an international women’s group that is opposed to war and violence. It originated in 1988 when Israeli and Palestinian women held a vigil together in Jerusalem in an attempt to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza.
Hilary Cornish, the organiser of the Women in Black protest, stated that “the repeated call for peace is very powerful. Women in Black are trying to prevent the build up of a militaristic, hyper-masculine society, which constantly feeds into each other. Silent protests allow people to come to their own conclusions and can be very moving.”
The Palestine Solidarity Society are going to continue with their action by holding the Women in Black vigil and student protest every Wednesday and Thursday until ceasefire. Basheer stated that we need to keep “asking the Scottish Parliament to put more pressure on Westminster to do everything in its power to ensure an immediate ceasefire is put in place.”
For Barack Obama’s inauguration the Palestine Solidarity Society, along with other human rights groups in Scotland, will be performing a candlelight vigil that will commence at Bristo Square, finishing with a protest outside the US Consulate.
Hilary Cornish stated that the campaigning societies “need to do more to reach out to people who want to call for peace, but who mistakenly feel that calling for a ceasefire could be construed as condemning all Israelis or as offering support for Hamas. “