Around 300 people took part in the Tyne and Wear May Day March and Rally in Newcastle on Saturday.
The event coincided with the 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ international May Day celebrations.
Back in 1890, the international demand was for an eight-hour maximum to the working day. This call united workers in the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and many other countries.
One of the organisers of the Tyneside event, Martin Levy, said:
“There’s a lot of people on zero hours contracts today who would love to get the chance to work eight hours.”
“The march is as relevant today as it was 125 years ago. It’s very important as a statement of the principles of the Trade Union and Labour movement – solidarity, fighting inequality and fighting for social justice.
“These issues don’t just go away.”
Speakers at the event included Christine Payne, general secretary of actors’ union Equity; Ian Mearns, Labour’s candidate for the Gateshead constituency at the forthcoming general election and Andrew Murray, chief of staff of Unite the Union and deputy president of the Stop the War Coalition.
Professor Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, had been due to speak but had to cancel at the last minute.
His place on the platform was taken by Ann Schofield of the Tyneside Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
Those taking part assembled at Princess Square then walked along Northumberland Street and then past St Thomas’s Church towards Exhibition Park, where the rally was held.
Music on the march was provided by the Backworth Colliery Band, while local musicians DrumDin (OK) and The Backyard Rhythm Orchestra performed at the rally.
Mr Levy added:
“This 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ May Day was an opportunity to make clear our opposition to austerity and privatisation, and to express solidarity with all those struggling for a better world, particularly the people of Palestine.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 May 2015
A peaceful vigil became a noisy protest when EDL members arrived to “disrupt” it in Middlesbrough.
Members of Teesside Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been holding a vigil every Wednesday evening since mid-July for the Gaza crisis.
They meet every week from 5pm to 7pm outside McDonald’s in the town centre.
About 15 members of the English Defence League waving an England flag and an Israel flag turned up towards the last half hour of the demonstration, which involved around 100 people.
A makeshift prison was set up under The Bells sculpture on the corner of Linthorpe Road as part of the demonstration.
Children, men and women sat inside on the floor with tape across their mouths and wearing blindfolds.
Other protestors stood alongside them holding up Palestine flags and placards.
Kiran Hussain, 27, a civil servant from Linthorpe in Middlesbrough, played one of the prisoners. She said: “Basically we are coming here every week for them to stop what’s happening. Innocent children are dying so we’re raising awareness.”
John Bloom, 49, from Hartlepool and a bookshop owner in Middlesbrough, is one of the organisers of the weekly vigil. He said: “It’s important we stand with people and make others aware of the suffering and the situation.”
Saeed Ahmed, 50, from Ayresome in Middlesbrough, said: “We want our Prime Minister David Cameron to do something about it.”
A spokesman for the EDL said they were attending the demonstration to “disrupt” it and show solidarity with Israel.
Police watched on during the protest and only intervened once EDL members marched towards the vigil.
Nine police officers and police community support officers formed a wall between the two groups and stopped members of either side coming into close contact.
Both groups dispersed peacefully once the demonstration had finished.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 07 Aug 2014