Tens of thousands of protesters on Saturday marched in support of Palestinians in major European and North American cities including London, Paris, Montreal and Washington as the worst violence in years raged between Israel and militants in Gaza.
In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch, near the British capital’s Hyde Park, to march towards the Israeli embassy.
Packed crowds stretched all along Kensington High Street where the embassy is located.
Organizers said as many as 150,000 people had gathered for the London march, one of several across the UK, although London police said they were unable to confirm a figure.
“The group is spread across a large area which makes it impossible to count them,” a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.
“This time is different,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot told the demonstrators. “This time we will not be denied any more. We are united. We have had enough of oppression.”
Simon Makepace, a 61-year-old accountant, said that he had joined the protests because “the whole world should be doing something about it, including this country.”
He was critical of the US, which he said was unfairly backing Israel.
Across North America, in turn, gatherings to show solidarity with Palestinians took place in cities including Boston, Washington, Montreal and Dearborn, Michigan.
Several hundred people turned out in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York, chanting “Free, free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
They waved Palestinian flags and held placards that read “End Israeli Apartheid” and “Freedom for Gaza.”
In Madrid, about 2,500 people, many of them young people wrapped in Palestinian flags, marched to the Puerta del Sol plaza in the city center.
“This is not a war, it’s genocide,” they chanted.
“They are massacring us,” said Amira Sheikh-Ali, a 37-year-old of Palestinian origin.
“We’re in a situation when the Nakba is continuing in the middle of the 21st century,” she said, referring to the “catastrophe,” a word used by Palestinians to describe Israel’s creation in 1948 when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out.
The marches came amid the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since a 2014 war in Gaza.
Thousands marched in Berlin and other German cities following a call by the Samidoun collective.
Police used tear gas and water cannon in Paris to try to disperse a pro-Palestinian rally held there despite a ban by authorities.
Some threw stones or tried to set up roadblocks with construction barriers, but for the most part police pursued groups across the district while preventing a planned march toward the Place de la Bastille.
The march had been banned on Thursday over concerns of a repeat of fierce clashes that erupted at a similar Paris march during the last war in 2014, when protesters took aim at synagogues and other Israeli and Jewish targets.
“France is the only democratic country to ban these demonstrations,” said a statement from lawyers for the Association of Palestinians in the Paris region.
In Greece, police said about a thousand people marched on the US embassy in Athens.
Riot police used a water cannon and there were minor scuffles with protesters in front of the embassy, Agence France-Presse correspondents reported.
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