There were perhaps twenty people when we first arrived. "Oh God, we've come all this way for this," we thought.
By two o'clock, when the march against Israel's invasion of the Gaza strip was supposed to begin, there were a lot more. By the time it actually set off there must have been hundreds of people, shouting as they walked down Cardiff's Queen Street, "Free Free Palestine!"
But that's not all they shouted. "Allah Akbar", was a solitary cry that seemed to turn the entire street into a place of worship. Hundreds replied, their voices rising, an incomprehensible force to my English brain.
My friend had told me about the march, I myself hadn't seen any
pamphlet or poster explaining its purpose. I assumed that it was in
opposition to the invasion. "1, 2, 3, 4, occupation no more!" It's against the occupation, too, I thought.
Then I heard a single girl, attempting to start another chant. Arm in arm with her school friends, she yelled "Down Down Israel!" before her friend quickly chastised her. No-one else took it up.
It wasn't until the end of the march, after a number of people had spoken to the crowd, that I heard the phrase again. This time, it was started by one man. The amassed demonstrators had formed a circle, they knew the march was over. So did he. But for a couple more minutes he started some chants. By the time he said it, my friend and I were cold and ready to go. "Down Down Israel!" he yelled, "Down Down Israel!" they chanted.
This was worrying. This march had somehow become a call for the destruction of an entire state.
Who can fail to sympathise with those in Gaza, even before the war began?
"There's one million on food aid, including 750,000 refugees. 80% are
below the poverty line, meaning they live on less than $2 a day. Almost
100,000 jobs have gone in the last 18 months, since the total Israeli
embargo came in. [Because that included most building materials] $93m
of Unrwa construction projects, medical centres, houses for refugees,
all are stopped. 3,200 out of 3,500 Gaza businesses have gone down in
That was before the bombardment began.
Demonstrating against the invasion is a right we all have. Calling for the perpetrators to leave the territory they occupy puts you in the company of the UN (242, The situation in the Middle East). But there is a line. Somewhere in Cardiff, on the 9th of January, that line was crossed.