“No words for such madness”: George Galloway decries ‘ban’ from Birmingham Palestine protest
George Galloway has condemned allegedly being banned from addressing a Birmingham pro-Palestine protest, amid claims he was “refused the right to speak” over his views on UK border controls.
Attending the mass rally in the city last weekend, the firebrand political figure initially hoped to speak to the near 10,000 people who turned out for the event.
Galloway expressed his hope to address the crowd at the protest beforehand, but was not billed to speak by organisers, who had listed Jeremy Corbyn MP and rapper Lowkey on publicity as their key guest speakers.
Galloway claims he requested to speak following the march on Saturday 20 January, which he joined alongside former Labour MP Chris Williamson, leading the Workers Party GB contingent, but states he was refused by organisers of the protest to take to the stage.
Galloway marched with supporters and seven members of his family, but when they got to the stage, he claims he wasn’t allowed to speak and had to settle for a “fish tea” in a nearby cafe as consolation.
At the time, 69-year-old political activist and talk show host Galloway described the ‘snub’ as “an act of madness” but has since revealed he believes the decision was made due to his “views on (British) border controls”.
SO: Official! The Birmingham Stop the War and Palestine Solidarity banned me from speaking at their recent demo where me and seven of my family marched – because of my "views on (British) border controls"! Just no words for such madness really. @jeremycorbyn @Lowkey0nline… pic.twitter.com/U2dvNDLJ5l
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) January 27, 2024
In a post shared on X – formerly Twitter – Galloway published a photo of himself with the late Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat, and wrote:
“Official! The Birmingham Stop the War and Palestine Solidarity banned me from speaking at their recent demo where me and seven of my family marched – because of my “views on (British) border controls”! Just no words for such madness really.”
Former Derby MP and Workers Party member Chris Williamson described the move to “de-platform” Galloway as “uncomradely”.
Galloway, currently the leader of the Workers Party of Britain, has maintained his criticism of not being allowed to speak at the Birmingham march, which began in Sparkhill Park and ended in Edgbaston Street in the city centre.
Speaking on his online MOATS (Mother of All Talk Shows) podcast on 21 January, Galloway said:
“But I stood in the crowd at the rally of the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and was not allowed to speak and neither was Chris Williamson. There’s been a wildly oscillating series of reasons issued from the organisers because, well, there’s quite a bit of interest in what happened in Birmingham yesterday.”
He added: “Does that mean that you don’t the support for Palestine of anybody who doesn’t agree with you on every other thing? Does that mean that you don’t want the support of Conservatives for Palestine? You don’t want Tory MPs to demand ceasefire now? Is that what this means? Is that the position of these two organisations?”
In a bid to offer context for his right to speak, he said: “I am a founding member of the Stop the War Coalition. I’m talking about more than 20 years ago.
“I was its leading speaker. Its biggest and most important speaker was the right honourable Tony Benn. But because of his age, he didn’t quite do the number of public meetings for the Stop the War Coalition that I was able to do.
“I toured the country on a bus, talking to uncountable thousands of people on behalf of the Stop the War Coalition. I’ve been a member of the ranks once small, now vast, of the army of supporters of the Palestinian cause in Britain for more than 50 years. That’s 50 years. I was elected six times to Parliament. I am, by all accounts, something of a public speaker.”
Headline speaker at the Birmingham event Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t commented on the accusations, but rapper Lowkey – real name Kareem Dennis – defended Galloway’s right to speak.
“I absolutely support the right of both @georgegalloway and @DerbyChrisW to speak at this march,” he wrote on X after urging organisers to allow Galloway to speak at the demonstration.
Speaking on stage, Lowkey went further and told the audience: “When I first set foot in Gaza and kissed the soil, it was with Viva Palestina and George Galloway.
“George Galloway broke the siege of Gaza two separate times in spite of the British and Israeli government trying to break him, make no mistake about it!”
However, organisers have contested claims made by Galloway, insisting there was no formal ban.
“This is absolutely shocking from a greatly respected @georgegalloway by the Birmingham community, is this how you repay the community?” event co-organiser Javed Iqbal responded to Galloway on X.
“This statement is untrue, totally false, with great respect nobody banned some one great like you, was you invited by the organisers?”
Other speakers at the Birmingham rally for Gaza included peace activist Salma Yaqoob, former Birmingham Ladywood MP Clare Short, Zack Polanski from the Green Party, and Palestine Solidarity Campaign chair Kamel Hawwash.