Mayor Lutfur Rahman outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall. Image credit: Shabbir Lakha.
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‘School Strike for Palestine’ sees hundreds of Tower Hamlets students march out of class to local MP’s office

Four hundred Tower Hamlets school students marched towards Labour MP’s office, Rushanara Ali, demanding her removal after not voting for Gaza ceasefire. 

Hundreds of Tower Hamlets students participated in a ‘School Strike for Palestine’ on Thursday 16 November. The students marched out of their classrooms towards the office of Labour MP Rushanara Ali following her decision not to back a Gaza ceasefire vote in parliament. 

On Wednesday 4 November, MPs voted on the SNP’s motion to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Ali, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Investment and Small Business, abstained from the vote.

Ali backed Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who urged MPs not to vote for the SNP’s ceasefire motion. As a frontbencher, if Ali had voted for the ceasefire she would have been forced to resign from her shadow cabinet position.

In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Ali explained her decision to abstain: 

‘I want to see a ceasefire and I have been clear about this, but the reality is that this motion does not secure a ceasefire and would not lead towards one, which the people of Gaza urgently and desperately need.’

The march, which began at 11 am, involved students from primary and secondary schools across Tower Hamlets including Mulberry Academy in Shoreditch. The protestors travelled from Tower Hamlets Town Hall on Whitechapel Road to the local Labour office on Cambridge Heath Road.

Protestors chanted ‘ceasefire now’, as well as ‘Free Palestine’, ‘Israel is a terrorist state’, and ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’

Luftur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, spoke at the protest alongside Shabbir Lakha, a Stop the War activist. 

Lakha, 31 said: ‘The protest was angry but empowering with young people feeling like they were having the opportunity to have their voices heard.

‘They were demanding a ceasefire and were outraged that their local MP chose to abstain on voting for one on Wednesday.’ 

Surrounded by crowds outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall, Rahman said:

‘We want to see a ceasefire immediately. The world leaders, the global leaders, we in the west, we must ask Israel to heed and to cease firing in Gaza. All human lives matter.’ 

On Wednesday 4 November, MPs voted 293 to 125 to reject the SNP’s motion for an immediate ceasefire. Ten Labour frontbenchers resigned or were forced to quit following their decision to back the ceasefire motion, including Jess Phillips, Shadow minister for domestic abuse. 

Thursday’s student strike follows several protest rallies for Palestine that have been occurring in the borough. On Saturday 4 November, protesters gathered in Altab Ali Park, calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The Tower Hamlets school strike is just one of several occurring across the UK. On Friday 17 November, students protested in Ilford, Eastham and Glasgow as part of the ‘School Strike for Palestine’, organised by the Stop the War Coalition. 

For more local politics, read Motion calling for Gaza ceasefire ruled outside of Tower Hamlets Council remit despite cross-party support.

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