Protesters force Preston City Council to fly Palestine flag

Palestine flag flown over Preston town hall.

More than a thousand protesters pressured Preston City Council to fly the Palestinian flag over Preston Town Hall.

The council had agreed to fly the flag for the whole weekend from 5pm yet cancelled at the last minute citing email opposition.

The council raised the flag after demonstrators chanting “Free free Palestine” blocked the road and refused to leave.

Stop the War supporters and campaigning group Children of the Ghetto originally approached Preston council about flying the flag.

Activists recalled that the flag of the African National Congress flew over Preston town hall during the struggle against the racist apartheid system in South Africa.

The move followed a request from campaign group ‘Children of the Ghetto’.  Several hundred people gathered outside the Town Hall entrance to hear speeches and show their support ahead of a bigger rally due to take place in the City centre on Saturday evening.

The plan had initially been to fly the flag over the Council building throughout the weekend but there appears to have been a bit of a rethink and the flag was quickly taken down again following the speeches.

On Thursday the council leader Peter Rankin had announced the Town Hall would fly the Palestinian flag “in solidarity with the people of Gaza who are locked in a bitter and long lasting conflict with Israel.”

A new release was issued on Friday afternoon to say the city council had now u-turned on its decision. The Union flag is now to fly at half-mast over the Town Hall for the weekend and a peace flag will be flown from Monday 28 July for a week.

Councillor Rankin said: “We have listened and reflected to the views expressed to us about flying the Palestinian flag in Preston. I have been truly touched by the many views that have been expressed from all sides.

“It is clear this is a very emotive issue and we have had literally hundreds of people from Preston and indeed from around the world contact us about it.

“Everyone I have spoken to and have had correspondence with, understands the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the suffering that is taking place in this conflict. We do however understand that there is, as with any conflict, suffering on both sides.

“Our aim all along with wanting to fly the flag is to highlight the suffering of the people in Gaza and to appeal for peace. Certainly, a cease fire at least in a hope of trying to get dialogue going and limit the suffering of everyone involved in this sorry conflict.

“So to recognise all those who have lost their lives in this conflict we will now fly the Union Flag at half-mast over the weekend. Then from Monday, we will fly the flag of peace as a symbol of hope for a cease fire and future peace talks.”

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