War of words follows peaceful protest

A war of words broke out following Saturday’s peaceful protest in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Around 400 people attended the gathering to support an end to what was described as ‘genocide’ in the region. It passed off without incident.

Guest speaker was longtime Gaza campaigner John Hurson.

The rally was attended by a broad spectrum of local people along with political representatives from both Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

There was a small counter protest staged by loyalists with an Israeli flag unfurled at one stage. The ‘MAIL’ did not witness the incident but video from loyalists at the scene shows no incident from either side.

Another group of loyalists, including PUP representatives, watched the protest from the far side of the street. A PUP spokesman said they were there to observe.

Police kept a low profile during the protest, which lasted for around 45 minutes.

As the protest broke-up a car drove through the town centre playing loyalist band music at high volume on the stereo. Apart from some sharp looks from shoppers and protesters there, our reporter saw no other incident.

It has been claimed police did step in to end a verbal altercation close to the scene but this has not been confirmed.

A post regarding the protest by a PUP spokesman giving a very different version of events drew a furious reaction from Facebook users, many of them scotching the claims.

The PUP claimed organisers struggled to maintain control of the crowd as the Israeli flag was unfurled and that a 999 call was made ‘as the crowd became uncontrollable’.

The post drew over 400 comments of Facebook - mostly hitting out at the version of events presented. The post was later deleted,

A police spokesperson said: “Police in Lurgan were aware of a protest in the town, one of many across the Province, in relation to Gaza. The protest passed without incident.”

Video of the moment the flag was unfurled shows the Gaza protesters simply turning their backs on the pro-Israeli counter protest.

The DUP’s Alderman Carla Lockhart also came under fire on social media after posting her concerns about the Gaza protests.

Following the protest here’s been a call to boycott Israeli goods as the crisis in Gaza continues.

The call was made on behalf of the new Lurgan branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).

Ruairí Creaney, of the IPSC, described the protest as a “powerful display of international solidarity”.

He said: “Saturday’s demonstration shows the level of popular outrage at Israel’s policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the Gaza Strip.

“This is not a one-off protest. This is the start of a campaign to build solidarity in Lurgan with the people of Palestine.

“We are calling on the people of Lurgan to support an all-out boycott of Israel. There can be no normalisation of relations with an apartheid state. Think before you buy.

“We urge local businesses in the town to stop stocking Israeli goods in their shops. The sale of Israeli goods is funding mass murder. We also call on our elected representatives to sever all links with the Israeli state and, in particular, publicly withdraw support for the Caterpillar plant in Belfast.”

During Saturday’s meeting Caterpillar was lambasted for its role in selling equipment used by the Israeli government in what was described as ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Caterpillar has said it does not sell equipment to Israel but to the US Government.