Several dozen pro-Palestinian activists descended on the, high profile Zionist linked, Marks & Spencer store in Newry’s Buttercrane shopping centre on Saturday August 23, in a robust protest organised by the recently formed Newry Palestine Support Group.
The protesters made their way to the city centre supermarket carrying flags, banners and placards depicting images and slogans calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. Air horns also echoed around the busy shopping centre as the protesters chanting slogans in support of the people of Palestine. The participants then cleared the shelves of goods before leaving the full trolleys at the checkouts. Posters and stickers were also plastered on the goods, during the protest which drew a lot of attention from the many Saturday shoppers and passers-by.
The peaceful, but noisy, protest was organised in response to the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza which, in recent weeks, has caused outrage around the world with horrific images of innocent civilians, most of whom are children. As a result we have seen people taking to the streets in their hundreds and thousands in various countries, including Ireland. We were also joined on the protest with a comrade from Palestine who is staying in Ireland.
In a disturbing twist a number of peaceful protesters were manhandled and physically assaulted by M&S staff and security staff. This heavy handed response by staff is in stark contrast to other protests that have taken place in Belfast.
Commenting on the highly successful protest, a spokesperson from the Newry Palestine Support Group said “Today’s protest has been a huge success and we have raised some much needed awareness to the situation in Gaza.
“The reason we chose to protest at this location is due to the fact that Marks & Spencer are very much complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people and are assisting in the funding of Israel’s war machine. From it’s birth M&S has been inextricably linked to Zionism. In fact Lord Marcus Sieff - long time Chairman of M&S - stated that one of the fundamental objectives of M&S is to aid the economic development of Israel.”
The spokesperson continued “ It has also been reported that M&S are profiteering from the illegal occupation of Palestine by selling goods purportedly produced in the State of Israel and exported internationally by the Zionist regime, which are actually produced in the Occupied Territories and sold under 'Made in Israel' labels. Products imported from Israel in the West are produced in Israeli settlements within the Occupied Territories, often by the hands of exploited Palestinian labourers. The actions are illegal according to international law and are in violation of EU trade agreements. By importing goods produced in the Occupied Territories, M&S demonstrates its support for the regime's illegal and brutal colonisation of Palestine through expanding settlement activity, and thereby its complicity in Israeli war crimes.”
"It's very worrying that M&S staff and security staff resorted to violence by assaulting and man-handling several peaceful protesters. We take this opportunity to commend our activists for remaining calm and peaceful despite such bully-boy tactics"
Concluding the representative, of the Newry Palestine Support Group, outlined the groups future intentions “This is not a one off token protest, we are currently looking at other initiatives to partake in to support the besieged Palestinians in Gaza. Our members are made up of seasoned activists who have plenty of experience in campaigning on various humanitarian issues of concern over the years.
Today’s event is simply the first of many.