Poor Support for Batsheva in Salford: Another Success for BDS

Betheva Protest in Salford Video (2/11/2012)

Report of Friday’s protest by Norma Turner
Under a torrent of rain and windswept across the square outside the Lowry theatre in what felt like the middle of nowhere, 75 protesters including people from Manchester and Salford, Rochdale and Bury, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, York, Halifax and Edinburgh, made sure that every single one of the attendees at the Batsheva performance knew that they had Palestinian blood on their tickets.
The performance was very badly attended – more than half empty. Some members of the public turn away from going to the performance upon hearing about Batsheva and it’s relationship to the Israeli State.
The Lowry had hired more security people for inside the building. It had written to all ticket holders, not just the Batsheva event, to say they would be stopped and searched, that only ticket holders would be allowed into the building and they would have to show their tickets on entry and have their bags searched – for their own safety and enjoyment. The theatre had liaised with the Salford police, who took the opportunity of increasing their overtime by sending four vanloads and surrounding the building with barricades. The police tactics initially was to construct two small compounds, made of metal barricades, away from the front of the building, at opposite ends of the square, for the two rival demonstrations to be kettled into. There was only one demonstration. We weren’t going in a kettle.

They tried to enforce this decision but after one person reminded them of Hillsborough, we refused the offer of compound, occupation, siege and stupidity.

It was then negotiated (much as Edinburgh) that the demonstration was situated behind an imaginary line of public access to the theatre for emergency services, and public access, while four people were able to leaflet the two entrances. Actually four was more than was needed, because their barricading had structured the access to enable ease of leafleting for us, displays of our banners in the most prominent places (including on their barriers) …. and there were so few people going in.

It was also easy for people in the demonstration to leaflet people attending who were coming from the mall or carpark and coming across the square – which the police tactics had ensured that we were physically occupying.

The demonstration was lively, chanting, continuously, there were placards and banners, despite the horrendous conditions.

Four people were prevented from getting in to the performance byLowry’s security. Their tickets were taken from them. The excuse of taking the tickets was that the theatre had got intelligence that these ticket holders were likely to disrupt the performance. Nevertheless the performance was disrupted and it was reported that the stewards inside were courteous, the police took people out at the back and separated them and asked for their personal details. They refused to give any details and were let go.

It should be noted that the Lowry did not at any time respond to representations or agree to discuss or negotiate about the protest. There are at least three public sector representatives on the trustees (Salford councillors and chief executive) and the director of the Plymouth theatre.

The police were clearly expecting a counter demonstration so must have been warned by the Zionists. This didn’t materialise – there weren’t any even individuals. That may be because it was Friday so it is important that we get as many people there tonight as we can.

The national campaign – don’t dance with Israeli apartheid – has already succeeded, because it is obvious that the ticket sales are down and information is getting out to the public. The Lowry was forced to reduce ticket prices which were initially been sold at £18-24 down to £5 for people under 26. it cannot have been an economic success for them – costing more to put on in terms of replacing the leaflets which mysteriously disappeared from stands, paying for extra security, paying Salford police, having the theatre a third full. This is going to be replicated throughout the country.

Manchester PSC were really grateful for the support from other groups, locally and around the North. In Manchester we were supported by Stop the War and CND. There was a really good feeling to the protest.