It was Wednesday 13 August, and the first meeting of Manchester Palestine Action was about to start, but there was a problem: there were too many of us. People were packed into the room we’d booked at the Friends Meeting House and still the corridor was thick with people. With over one hundred people at the meeting, attendance was more than double the room-capacity. Fortunately, Manchester’s weather was on our side, allowing us to hold two parallel meetings in the Friends and in Albert Square. It was a humbling, wonderful problem for this newly-formed group to face.
Manchester Palestine Action had begun forming organically through the spontaneous and informally-organised pickets outside Kedem Cosmetics, which have been running daily since 19 July. We have also been involved in the occupation of the Elbit arms factory in Birmingham, in conjunction with London Palestine Action. A large, diverse group has coalesced around the pickets, and this meeting was an important step in our efforts to consolidate ourselves, reflect on what has emerged, and think about practical next steps.
Appropriately for a group focussed on action, energy and innovation, the meetings were loud and lively. With a focus on group discussions, everyone had a chance to talk and the room was roaring with ideas. We reflected on our strengths and weaknesses so far, and began talking about ways to amplify our strengths and cover for our weaknesses. We also completed skills audits: these encouraged us to reflect on our levels of competence with various crucial skills, and they will allow us to better harness the incredible range of talents and experiences in this group. These skills audits will help us to organise trainings and skill-shares, as well as helping us form working groups. A brainstorm about ‘what next’ will provide the basis for next Tuesday’s meeting.
The meeting concluded with a message from Gaza by Dr. Mona el-Farra, the mother of one of our facilitators who works with Middle East Children’s Alliance. Speaking from the rubble in Gaza and nursing a sore back, she called on us for solidarity and not charity. She reminded us that we—this intergenerational, multiethnic, politically diverse group packed into a stuffy meeting room—are part of a growing global movement. Now that we have found each other, it is vital that we harness and share our skills and experiences, that we think critically and creatively, that we foster our sense of community, and that we maintain our hope, energy and focus in solidarity with Palestine and the other campaigners around the world.