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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 May, 2003, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Pro-Palestine rally in London
A Palestinian boy throws stones at an Israeli army bulldozer
Scenes like this have affected many
Journalist John Pilger and other speakers addressed a Free Palestine rally in London's Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

Organisers the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) estimated 6,000 people had attended the demonstration, which had speeches from former Labour MP Tony Benn and Palestinian figures.

Scotland Yard estimated the crowd to be 1,200, and said there had been no arrests.

The rally was called to mark the 55th anniversary of the Nakba, or the expulsion of Palestinians at the birth of the state of Israel, and to demand an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Betty Hunter, national secretary of the PSC, told BBC News Online numbers had been as expected and the day had gone well.

"Given the weather and so on we were very pleased with the turnout - there was very solid support for Palestine."

Sharon is not going to allow the roadmap to achieve any kind of independent and viable Palestinian state
Betty Hunter
Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Ms Hunter said a speech by the sister of Thomas Hurndall, a British peace activist in a coma after being shot in the head by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip, was particularly well received.

"The crowd were very concerned about what the British government is doing about the internationals who are being targeted by the Israelis in the occupied territories.

"People also raised the scepticism and almost contempt of [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon for the roadmap [peace plan].

"There have been pages of amendments and he has said he is not going to allow the roadmap to achieve any kind of independent and viable Palestinian state."

The event was also sponsored by the Muslim Association of Britain and the Stop the War Coalition among others, with other speakers including actors Juliet Stevenson and Corin Redgrave and MP Jeremy Corbyn.

Paul Usiskin, chairman of the British Friends of Peace Now, an Israeli peace organisation, said he had not felt able to attend the demonstration.

Mr Usiskin said; "We declare without any qualification that there be a two-state solution properly negotiated within the 1967 borders.

"The rally was quite justifiably against the occupation... [but] some of those who organised it are so against Israel... [it is] as if everybody in Israel is called Ariel Sharon."





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