The Daily Mail and other right-wing media love to specialise in pictures of mugged pensioners – but when the pensioner in question is a veteran activist and the muggers are the police, you can bet no outraged articles will be forthcoming.
Ray Davies, 79, is a familiar figure on the South Wales political scene whose commitment to the rights of Palestinians is unquestionable. On Saturday’s march against the invasion of Gaza he was amongst those protesting at the Israeli embassy when the police, for the second week running, launched a brutal attack on demonstrators. Having perhaps unwisely tried to reason with the boys in blue, Ray was hit by truncheons and riot shields then kicked while on the ground, losing consciousness. Fortunately he was able to recover sufficiently to travel home with other demonstrators, but this hardly excuses the savagery of the police’s actions.
Ray commented: “I have experienced the war zones in the Occupied Territories; I have been shot at, teargassed and beaten by the Israeli Defence Force; but I never expected such abuse and brutal treatment in Britain from our own police force.”
The truth is, however, that the police who attack our demonstrations are no more ‘our own’ than if they were the Israeli Defence Force. Their loyalty is to the British ruling class and its allies, whose interests it will stoutly defend even if it means breaking the law themselves. The present conflict in Gaza reveals with absolute clarity how Israel remains the most vital ally for Western imperialism in the oil-rich Middle East, and how even its attacks on UN outposts can escape censure from the likes of Bush, Brown or president-elect Obama. Protesters venting their justified anger at the Israeli embassy in London must therefore be seen to be hammered by the UK authorities.
Clearly however outrage at the Gaza atrocities is growing. The first London demo attracted at least 30,000 and the second was far larger, with even the BBC scorning the police’s estimate of 20,000 and claiming 50,000 – still a conservative estimate.
Ray Davies will clearly not be dissuaded by his brutal experience and nor should any other activist. With a public meeting this Weds in Cardiff and the probability of more UK and local demos to come, we should take the violence of the state’s henchmen as a sign of their weakness and redouble our efforts to oppose the obscenities taking place in Gaza.
There is a Gaza Action in Wales page on facebook.