Sunday 26th May: after nearly 8 months of genocidal horror — 8 months in 76 years — we might think that particular acts of brutality can no longer move us. The atrocities committed in Rafah show us there are truly no limits to the zionist entity’s attempts to wipe out the Palestinian people and their resistance: a resistance which frightens them so much. Our hearts, with all the hearts of all the world, bellow for Rafah: every single martyr, every single mother, father, son and daughter. It is with this rage that everything which happened the following day in Manchester must be understood. We share this story not to congratulate ourselves, but because we believe it is our duty to share all victories, so they may be learnt from and built on.

The Protest

The 27th May emergency demonstration for Rafah was called at approximately 23:30 on the 26th May. The following evening, thousands of people congregated in Piccadilly Gardens in one of the largest demonstrations in Manchester for a while. The chant “Manchester supports the Palestinian Resistance” was heard reverberating through the crowds with a ferocity not heard since October. Everything felt different to the weekly Saturday demonstrations: the absolute refusal to accept this most recent zionist atrocity gave us a particular unity, a sharpness which would eventually become our weapon.

The police appeared totally unprepared; for most of the demonstration as it marched towards the university there were only 2 officers walking backwards, staring and gawping into the crowd looking lost and afraid. We marched through town, across the tram lines and took over the whole of Oxford Road, as we’ve done many times before. We went all the way to the Manchester Camp of Resistance for Palestine, of Dr. Adnan Al-Bursh Park, and to the recently occupied Walid Daqqa Hall. The crowds assembled and watched the occupiers hang the flag of Palestine from the Hall’s balcony, letting it drape all the way down to the people’s hands below.

The park’s namesake, Dr. Adnan Al-Bursh, was the leading orthopaedic surgeon of Gaza, based in Al-Shifa hospital. Despite the zionist entity’s attempts to drive medical staff out of the north of Gaza, Dr. Adnan refused to submit; he remained moving between hospitals, refusing to abandon his people, until he was taken, disappeared along with many others, by the regime. According to his niece, Rozan Al-Bursh, he was ‘as resolute as a mountain.’ After 4 months in the occupation’s prisons, faced with his steadfast defiance, like monsters they tortured him to death. He did not relent and neither will we.

Walid Daqqa was martyred on the 7th April this year. He was murdered by the zionist entity during his 38 years in their prisons, through the denial of medical treatment for the rare and debilitating form of bone marrow cancer with which he suffered. Walid was a writer and a leader in the Palestinian prisoners movement. He and his wife Sanaa symbolised defiance after Walid smuggled his sperm to Sanaa from behind the occupation walls. In 2020, Sanaa gave birth to their daughter Milad (Arabic for ‘Birth’). Walid was meant to be released in 2023, but zionist authorities extended his sentence by two additional years, after convicting him for smuggling phones to prisoners. To add yet another level of injustice, the zionist authorities are currently refusing to release Walid’s body, depriving his family, loved ones and people the right to bid him the farewell he deserves. Walid held within him the unity of an intellectual mind and a steadfast spirit so crucial to Palestinian revolution and with this is an inspiration to entire generations of Palestinians. He will always be remembered and honoured as a revolutionary thinker, leader, fighter and martyr.

The building named in his honour was occupied on the 24th May, to deliberately target the University of Manchester’s exam halls. This marks an escalation in tactics of the 8 month long campaign, and over 1 month long encampment, against the University’s ties to the zionist regime and its investments in weapons manufacturers enabling the murder of Palestinians. The University of Manchester — through its investments in BAE systems, its ties to occupation universities, its despicable research programs into war machine technologies and its ongoing repression against our movement — is in direct collaboration with the genocidal zionist regime. Thus, this university — and all the universities which the global Student Intifada have been in battle with — must be also held responsible for the Rafah massacre of 26th May.

The flag unfurled down Walid Daqqa Hall, as a celebration of this continued resistance - here and in Gaza — and our collective defiance. The demonstration then moved into the encampment to hear the final speeches. Having been caught off guard by the size of the march earlier, greater manchester police chose this moment to call the notorious ‘tactical aid unit’ to line up along the edge of Walid Daqqa Hall. A small group of young women from the march noticed them, saw the threat to the Hall, and lined themselves at its entrance. More and more from the demonstration began to notice what was happening and crossed the road to join them. The police chose this moment to drag a young woman standing by the door to the floor, and attempted to reach its entrance, to break in and disperse the occupied Hall. The crowd responded justly to this violence on our comrade: the lines at the door were held, the police formed a line in front of those lines, a mass of the people assembled, aiming to break through the police line, defend the door, and drive them away. The police had their body cameras off, a clear sign that they meant to take vicious action away from the eye of even the state which protects them. Their brutality — punches, kicks, batons — left many injured and winded; people had to be moved out of the crush, and their comrades, even amongst the fighting, were able to rescue them to safety.

This, however, is not just an account of police violence against our movement. This is an account of popular victory. The crowds were steadfast: we did not rest until every last officer was forced to retreat away from the entrance. We held every entrance to Walid Daqqa Hall, building barricades at its doors and across the streets. Crucially, while large groups held the doors, people who had never before spoken, and likely have different political backgrounds, united to use all the means available to them to fortify every weak point. People continued to arrive through the night, committed to maintaining the victory until every last police unit was marched off the campus and out of Rusholme, the protestors dancing to the sound of their will breaking against the spirit of the masses.

Unity of the Fields

Why does the state care so much about protecting these university buildings? We have to understand the forces behind this movement. The proximity to, and open support from, the popular districts of Manchester — Hulme, Ardwick, Rusholme, and Moss Side — is our encampment’s strength. Manchester universities’ roles in the ongoing gentrification and land theft in our city are well-understood. We must not forget the halls of the university itself were built with the fruits of colonial plunder, from the enslavement of our siblings. This kind of popular revolt and reclamation of that land disrupts and upturns this grip on our city, and recalls the rich history of struggle here. The very same tactical aid unit deployed against us that day was used to repress the Moss Side Uprisings of 1981, then taking its tactics directly from the royal ulster constabulary of the occupied north of Ireland. Like a boomerang, the empire comes back home again and again to snarl and strike at the people.

The bootlicking Manchester Evening News and the fascist Daily Express have published exactly what the police told them to, attempting to present us as disorganised, undisciplined, and weak, precisely because we were the exact opposite. The organisation of the encampment itself is a genuine coalition of students from across all Manchester and Salford universities, as well as younger college students, workers at the university, the homeless community, and deep and widespread commitment from the youth and people of Greater Manchester. Our movement’s composition mirrors the strategy of the Palestinian Resistance, the Unity of the Fields. Despite our internal divisions, we are unified in struggle against a common enemy. This unity gained potency and we caught a glimpse of its power as our fears dissolved in the conviction of the masses. People spoke after the event of how their ordinary confusions and hesitations were eclipsed; they trusted the collective will of their comrades and joined the struggle even without immediately understanding its objective. It is this power we hold that the state is constantly forced to manoeuvre around and weigh itself against. As stated by our American comrades, the liberators of Hind’s Hall at Columbia University, “the one thing that kept Columbia from raiding the ‘68 occupations was the threat of Harlem rioting. Similarly, working class Palestinian-led crowds kept us safe by becoming a near-constant fixture outside Columbia’s gates.”

Another factor is the history of the Palestine movement in Manchester. We are indebted to previous generations who have tread the path of commitment to the Palestinian resistance in this city, including during years of intense repression of the movement and where the conditions of mass support were not like today. They began weaving a thread which we will always continue, and we thank them. Our victory against the british state, and by extension the zionist entity that Monday, could not have happened without this grounding, and it could not have happened without the people who have been marching and taking action in Manchester for months and years. It was those same people who have marched together every week since October — often without yet knowing one another — who joined forces in unity and direction on those barricades. The encampment and Student Intifada here is built from and with that movement. What is becoming different for our generation is that we are witnessing this steadfast commitment to the Palestinian resistance take on a mass character.

As youth, we have a special role in resistance. We are a force of militancy and creativity that continually pushes the movement forwards. We take constant inspiration from the youth of Palestine. This militancy has been cultivated — we know what we are fighting for. Our commitment to upholding the Thawabet, to unity, discipline and to continue to strengthen the force of our organisation are crucial to our victories. We are not there yet, however, and we understand that nothing we do is enough until Palestine is free, and all we do is commitment to that struggle for liberation and land. We salute our comrades in Liverpool, Nottingham, Newcastle, Lancaster, Oxford, London and particularly Cardiff, who have recently faced similar increases in repression of their movements. We seek and uphold a unity across encampments, across demonstrations, across all sites of struggle for Palestine. An injury to one is, truly, an injury to all. We echo the call from the youth of Gaza, and call on the youth across Britain to take up this revolutionary struggle with us, to commit wholeheartedly to Palestinian resistance, to do everything in your power to understand what that means, and to put its principles into practice. Don’t look back; commit to victory.

This was not the youth of our city’s only victory against the british state this weekend. Only two days earlier, when faced with a handful of zionist thugs, police formed a line attempting to block our route down Oxford Road. The demonstration pushed against that police line, until they were forced to relent, disperse the fascists, and we marched down our street. We were able to do that precisely because of the strength bestowed on us by the Palestinian resistance and the unity that has given our movement.

It is not simply that Palestinian resistance is our light and our guide, but that our small victories against the british state cannot exist without the steadfast struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Just as we see the zionist regime weakening, when confronted with the reality of what ‘Globalise the Intifada’ means, what it could mean, the british state and its running dogs, the greater manchester police, themselves weaken, panic, and lash out, much like the entity itself.

To serve the cause of liberation these events must mark a transformation in our struggle, it is the least we can do for our siblings resisting in Gaza and all of occupied Palestine. Everything is for you.


Youth Front For Palestine (@_YFFP_)

Youth Front For Palestine is a youth organisation based in Manchester and Birmingham committed to Palestinian resistance through anti-colonial, anti-imperialist political action.
Instagram: @y.f.f.p