Bridge packed for Gaza

The organisers of the Peace Bridge rally in support of the people of Gaza said they are delighted that over 1,000 people came out for the event.

Derry Anti-War Coalition said that they felt that the event drew even more people after local people were informed it could not take place because it clashed with policy.

The event however went ahead despite the objections from the city’s urban regeneration company Ilex, which has responsibility for both the Peace Bridge and Ebrington.

People queued along the quayside to get onto the bridge on Saturday afternoon, after being urged by local human rights activist Eamonn McCann to put away flags and other emblems that were not strictly related to the cause being highlighted.

The protest came as the Israeli army’s assault on Gaza intensified and the number of casualties- mostly civilians- mounted over the weekend.

It had been announced earlier in the week, sparking widespread interest locally.

However Ilex later in the week said it could not go ahead as no-one had given them written permission, and also citing third party usage policy, which states that no “inappropriate” emblems or flags would be allowed and that the areas would “not be made available for events where there is a perception that such events represent displays of sectarian or racial aggression, represent exclusion or calculated sectarian triumphalism”.

Ilex chief executive Mel Higgins had said in advance of the protest: “Third parties wishing to use Ebrington or the Peace Bridge are required to approach Ilex to gain written permission to use either space. No such approach has been made by Derry Anti-War Coalition (DAWC).”

He added: “Ilex forms no opinion on DAWC’s proposed event.”

Speaking about the protest on the bridge, chairperson of the Derry-Anti-War Coalition, said: “I thought the turnout was fantastic. People felt that this is our bridge and ‘where do you get off telling us we can’t go on it’.

“We understand the technicalities and that this is not a public thoroughfare for certain reasons, but if we can’t have an anti-war protest on a Peace Bridge then that just seems so ironic. I think it actually enhanced the turnout.”