Protests against events in Gaza have divided opinion in Manchester as they continue to intensify on King Street.
Supporters of both sides of the conflict assembled outside Jewish-run shop Kedem Cosmetics as soon as Israel mounted an offensive to end rocket fire from Palestinian militant group Hamas last month.
The world has looked on in horror as at least 2,029 people, mainly civilians, lost their lives in airstrikes and ground assaults, with 64 Israeli soldiers also perishing and a meaningful ceasefire is still to take hold as fighting continues.
And yesterday, footage showed that the protests against the bloodshed have reached new lows, with one man claiming that he ‘loved Hitler’ right in front of pro-Israel supporters.
So MM is asking Manchester:
Have the Manchester protests over the Gaza conflict gone too far?
Manchester Chef Tony Armistead, 58, spoke out against such claims and stood up for protesters’ freedom to express themselves.
He said: “I don’t think so. People have the right to freedom of speech, however they choose to show it.
“Nobody has any right to move them from King Street or stop them protesting.”
Alex, a 21-year-old Jehovah’s Witness from Manchester, believes that protesters are using ‘comments that are made are made to antagonise each other’ rather than making their feelings on the conflict heard.
Ged Brown, 44, a Director of Events for a Manchester firm, insists that the protesters are right to turn their attention to businesses.
“Personally, speaking the Israelis are not covering themselves in any glory through any of the actions, internationally they’re losing following. As a responsible business should we ethically be trading with Israel,” he said.
But not all Mancunians believed the protesters had a clear idea of what they were fighting for as they continue to demonstrate on King Street.
“I wouldn’t say too far, they just don’t sound like they know what they are talking about, they’ve just lost the plot,” said Mark Mortlerly, IT, 42, of Manchester.
“I’ve seen some of the banners; they’re trying to cross reference anti-Semitism with racism. Israel isn’t all Jews.”
Some Mancunians believe that the protests are correct but cannot ‘inconvenience civilians’.
“Yes and no, I can see both sides but I don’t think it’s fair to inconvenience and harm civilians from Britain into it,” said Jacob Lakeland, 23, Manchester, who works in marketing.
“Fair enough with the Government but not with the public, it’s just making the problem worse. It’s already affected the lives of people over there and that’s not very fair.”
But Manchester businesswoman Sandra (who declined to give her surname), 52, was staunchly against the conflict and believes that protests against at it are justified.
“I think they’ve both gone too far, Israel’s still being fired at but everyone’s expecting Israel to not fire back. Had that been our country we would have fired back. I feel sorry for the innocent people caught up in it but I think they both have to draw the line,” she said.
Fellow Mancunians pointed the finger at troublemakers among the protesting crowds as well as the decision to target Kedem in particular as pushing the boundaries too far.
“How can you say it’s ok to protest outside a Jewish shop? The people who run the shop just so happen to be Jewish,” said 20-year-old student Katie Nelson from Ancoats.
“It’s not like they are firing any rockets or killing anybody. They are just trying to make ends meet like anyone else and to demonstrate outside their shop is going way too far.”
Retired Sandra Burton, 74 from Bury, said: “Gaza doesn’t directly affect Manchester and, like any other protest, idiots are jumping on the bandwagon and causing trouble.
“That’s the real problem here. There is obviously bad blood between the supporters of the two sides, but the people stirring things up have made the protests go too far I think.”
But the right to protest must be maintained according to others.
Manchester artist Claire Curtin, 29, said: “It’s important if you can do it that you should to show solidarity. Sometimes a change doesn’t happen from protest but if you have it written in history that you did something then I can live with that.
“What is happening in Gaza is horrifying and people are upset and taking to the streets worldwide and think that is important to show solidarity.”
“Gaza is the biggest global issue at the moment and people are angry about what is happening there,” said sports company owner Joe Williams, 36 from Sale.
“I think the protests on King Street show that anger fairly. There is nothing wrong with the protests and people have a right to be vocal on the issue. I don’t think they have gone too far at all.”
And two Mancunians, who wished to remain anonymous, insisted that any issues arising from the protests were ‘not about Gaza but about the behaviour of people’ and that ‘protesting outside of shops is too far, it could harm civilians and that would just make matters worse’.
Image courtesy of David Appletree via YouTube with thanks