Blindfolded protestors deliver poignant ceasefire message to High Peak MP

‘Mr Largan asked why we had semi-naked men blindfolded and kneeling on the ground, as though he had no idea of the relevance to Gaza.’

Ahead of a vote on a ceasefire in Gaza that was due to take place in the House of Commons this week, a group of protestors gathered outside the constituency office of Robert Largan, Conservative MP for the High Peak.

Two of the demonstrators knelt outside the office, blindfolded, semi-naked and barefoot. The act was in reference to reports about Palestinians detained by Israel in Gaza being stripped to their underwear and forced to wear blindfolds.

Israeli media had initially claimed that the images of semi-naked Palestinian men being paraded by the Israeli military in Gaza were Hamas fighters. However, several of the men pictured were later identified as civilians, including a journalist.

The evocative protest in the middle of Largan’s constituency town of Whaley Bridge was designed to be representative of the terror the prisoners in Gaza would feel. Other campaigners held placards calling for all hostages to be freed, for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, for the UK to stop arming Israel, and to ‘stop the genocide.’

The demonstration follows an earlier protest in November when campaigners had gathered outside Largan’s office, accusing the MP of stirring up division and fear for comments he had made online that pro-Palestine marches were causing ‘significant public disorder.’

During the most recent protest, Largan came out to speak to the protestors.

Linda Walker of High Peak Stand Up to Racism, who organised the protest, said that onlookers were generally supportive of the demonstration, but it seemed that the MP had no idea of the relevance to Gaza.

“Mr Largan asked why we had semi-naked men blindfolded and kneeling on the ground, as though he had no idea of the relevance to Gaza. Maybe he has not seen any of the similar pictures of Palestinian prisoners. He dismisses the idea that journalists and paramedics are being targeted, and that Israel is committing war crimes every day,” Linda Walker told Left Foot Forward.

“The members of High Peak Stand Up to Racism who took part in this protest believe that Israel’s actions amount to genocide and that this will eventually be proved by the International Court of Justice. And that the US and UK governments are complicit in this genocide, not just letting it happen, but actively facilitating it,” she added.

Catherine Hughes, former secretary of the New Mills and Hayfield Labour Party, attended the protest. “As parents and grandparents, we are appalled by the situation in Gaza. We wanted to make a statement ahead of the vote in the Commons. Sadly, our message seemed to be lost on the MP,” she said.

Andy Dodd was one of the protestors who dressed as an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prisoner. Dodd has been involved in the movement against the arms trade and war over the years and has been attending the weekly vigils put on by Stand Up to Racism High Peak calling for a ceasefire. He feels strongly about what he described as the “catastrophe that is being facilitated by the British establishment” over Gaza, and wanted to help make the point in front of the High Peak MP’s office.

“The experience drove home just how absolutely terrifying it must be for the men who have been rounded up, deprived of their clothes, their homes, their families, their dignity, their freedom, the use of their hands and their eyesight,” he told LFF.

“When we took our blindfolds off the first thing that Largan said to us was “what are you two supposed to represent?” It was hard to believe that he was unable to work that out for himself.”

MPs had been set to vote on a motion from the Scottish National Party (SNP) on February 21, calling for an ‘immediate’ ceasefire in Gaza. The party accused Israel of engaging in collective punishment of the Palestinian people. 

With calls for a ceasefire growing, Labour had shifted its position to back a call for an ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire.’ Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle decided to allow a vote that is said to have helped Labour avoid a large-scale rebellion among its lawmakers over its position on the war in Gaza. The decision caused furore among the SNP and the Tories, who accused Hoyle of tipping the scales in favour of Labour.

Left Foot Forward contacted Robert Largan for comment on the recent demonstration outside his office. We have yet to have a reply.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Stand Up to Racism High Peak

Comments are closed.