A day of rage for Gaza
Reports from around the U.S. on actions in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
AS A new cease-fire between Israel and Palestine was due to take effect at midnight on Monday, August 11, people in cities across the U.S. continued to protest the savage Israeli war on Gaza.
As part of the "Global Day of Rage" for Gaza, a worldwide call for demonstrations in support of embattled Palestinians, thousands of people--and in some cases, tens of thousands--turned out from London to Cape Town, South Africa during the weekend of August 9-10.
-- In the U.S., a diverse crowd of over 2,000 rallied on August 9 in New York City. Protesters gathered at Columbus Circle and then marched to the United Nations. Some protesters painted their hands red to symbolize the blood spilled in Gaza, while others wore ribbons with the names of the dead. Chants of "Boycott Israel!" and "Resistance is justified when people are occupied!" were particularly popular.
Several hundred marched in a boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS)-themed contingent organized by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, including delegations from Jewish Voice for Peace and the International Socialist Organization (ISO). New York City Green Party activists also organized a contingent and distributed a statement from Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones, the Green Party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, calling for a boycott of Israel.
There have been over a dozen protests and other actions in New York since the bombing of Gaza began, including several acts of civil disobedience. Activists are now discussing next steps.
-- In Chicago, the Day of Rage demonstration drew some 3,000 people on August 10. Protesters marched from Grant Park, taking the streets up Michigan Avenue, to State Street, eventually ending at Federal Plaza. Chants from the participants, which included families with small children, included "Gaza, Gaza, we hear your cry. Palestine will never die," and "Netanyahu, you can't hide, we charge you with apartheid."
Signs in Spanish called for "Palestina libre" ("Free Palestine"); speakers included Jorge Mujica, an independent socialist candidate for alderman in Chicago's City Council.
-- The protests ranged to smaller shows of dissent in towns like Olympia, Wash., where several dozen people participated in a demonstration as part of the international day of action.
Early in the morning, a banner challenging U.S. support for the assault on Gaza was dropped from an overpass above the city's busiest street. At mid-day, protesters staged a "die-in" by lying down in a park to symbolize Gazans killed in the assault and painted their hands red to symbolize the blood on the hands of the U.S. government for its support and arming of Israel. Later in the afternoon, activists held an hour-long meeting with a staffer from Rep. Denny Heck's office.
The events were sponsored by the Rachel Corrie Foundation, an organization founded after the death of Rachel Corrie, a Washington activist who was killed by an Israeli operated bulldozer in Gaza in 2003. At the die-in event, Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother, remarked, "I spent hours last night on the telephone with friends in Gaza. I'm amazed at how few people here know what's going on. We have to keep getting the word out."
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THE "DAY of Rage" actions were only the latest in a series of demonstrations, large and small, organized across the U.S. since the beginning of Israel's attack.
-- In Washington, D.C., a protest demanding an end to U.S aid to Israel drew more than 15,000 people on August 2. The demonstration was sponsored by ANSWER and endorsed by an array of over 40 left and progressive organizations.
By 1 p.m., contingents were filling Lafayette Square in front of the White House, carrying banners and megaphones, and chanting "Long live Palestine" or "Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is an apartheid state." This continued for the next two hours as more protesters arrived from Detroit, Chicago, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and elsewhere. One person attending the rally described the park as "a sea of Palestinian flags."
The handful of pro-Israel supporters with the audacity to stand in front of the White House were instantly drowned out by thousands of pro-Palestine demonstrators.
One man who took a bus from Ohio with his wife and cousin to be at the demonstration said, "I've been protesting every Friday in Cleveland, so I wanted to come out to the national protest. I'm here to ask for an end to the war and the siege on Gaza."
Mounia Bounkenafet, of Falls Church, Va., marched with her four children, aged 3, 5, 7 and 12. "Sometimes, when they watch the news on Gaza, they start crying in front of the TV," Bounkenafet said. "I don't even want them to watch, but they're curious, and when they ask I tell them the truth: 'This is a big crime.'"
Tarek Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian-American teen whose brutal beating by Israeli police while he was on vacation in the West Bank was captured on video, and went viral, was also present at the march.
The protest came one day after Congress approved additional funding of $225 million for Israel's "Iron Dome" and three days after the Pentagon announced new ammunition deliveries to Israel--showing once again that Democrats are just as enthusiastic as Republicans when it comes to supporting Israel's apartheid.
-- In Austin, Texas, a coalition of activists from Lubbock to Houston organized a Texas-wide march in solidarity with Gaza and Palestine on August 2, the same day as the national march in Washington. Demands of the march included an end to U.S. funding for Israeli weapons used against the Palestinian people and an end to the siege of Gaza.
Some 5,000 Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Native Americans, Mexicans and more came together to march from the Capitol to City Hall. As they marched, participants chanted, "Resistance is justified when Gaza is occupied," "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" and "From Palestine to Mexico, apartheid walls have got to go."
Speakers at the rally included Palestinian activist Rania Masri, University of Texas professor Snehal Shingavi, Sheikh Islam, Pastor Jim Rigby and Rabbi Lyn Gottlieb from Jewish Voices for Peace.
-- Other protests the same day included a rally and candlelight vigil in Copley Square in Boston, where Palestinians spoke about what family members in Gaza have been going through during the siege. An earlier protest on July 25 drew some 500 people to a march and rally.
-- Days earlier, on July 31, residents of Iowa City, Iowa, came together for their third protest this summer in solidarity with Gaza. The event, organized by Iowa City group People for Justice in Palestine and Arab community members, drew some 60 people at its peak. One of the organizers, Yaser AbuDagga, a Palestinian resident of the Iowa City area, has had three family members killed during the siege and spoke out against Israel's violence at the protest.
Another Iowa City resident read a translation of a letter from a Gaza resident forced to evacuate his home to avoid the siege, which began with these words: "Let me tell you what is harder than death in Gaza. It is receiving a phone call from the IDF instructing you to leave your home as it will be shelled after 10 minutes. Imagine with me how in those 10 minutes, your short history will be erased from the face of the earth."
-- On July 26 in Seattle, more than 500 people gathered near the Space Needle and surrounded the intersections, chanting, "Free, free Palestine!" and "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!"
Activists held a die-in in the plaza outside of local station KOMO. Later in the evening, there was a solidarity meeting, with poetry, dance and music to raise money for Palestine relief. It started off with a film by Jen Marlow on the aftermath of the 2009 invasion of Gaza, and minutes of silence for the hundreds of children in Gaza killed in the current invasion.
-- On the same day in Burlington, Vt., over 60 people gathered--the third such protest since Israel began its most recent assault. "The road to South Africa has been paved," said Mousa Ishaq, a Palestinian Vermonter. "It will not be blocked until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Dismantle the settler state or be an outcast."
Helen Scott, a professor at the University of Vermont, read a statement from Labor for Palestine: "We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people against more than a century of Zionist colonialism." Condemning U.S. aid to Israel, she said, "We need that $3 billion for education, health care and housing. Instead it's being used to bomb school, hospitals and homes in Gaza."
After the speak-out, the group marched through downtown Burlington carrying signs and chanting, "Occupation is a crime, free, free Palestine!" The march stopped in front of Sen. Bernie Sander's office, where speakers criticized politicians who claim to be progressive, but support Israeli occupation and apartheid.
-- A day earlier, on July 25, more than 200 people rallied in Rochester, N.Y.--the third Friday protest in a row since the beginning of Israel's assault.
Protesters marched from Rochester's Federal Building to the offices of the Democrat and Chronicle, the city's daily newspaper, to highlight the absence of Palestinian voices across television and print media in U.S. coverage of the crisis in Gaza. Chants of "Free, free Palestine" and "Israel, Israel, USA--how many kids did you kill today" rang through the streets of downtown Rochester during rush hour, as people driving by honked their horns in support.
The highlight of the demonstration was the large turnout from local mosques and Rochester's Islamic Center, bringing the Arab and Muslim youth that led the march in chanting. As one speaker put it, "If the murder of innocent civilians...women and children isn't terrorism, then what is it?"
-- On July 24 in Portland, Ore., in one of the largest Palestine demonstrations in the city since 2009's Operation Cast Lead, more than 1,000 people took the streets of downtown to demand an end to Israel's massacre in Gaza. The protest was attended by a diverse crowd, from different generations and backgrounds. It was sponsored by 11 groups, including Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace and the ISO.
The protest began with a rally in Pioneer Square. As hundreds of people lined the streets chanting, a motorcade of more than 50 cars and bikes painted with "FREE PALESTINE" and flying Palestinian flags encircled the square. The chanting was followed by a round of powerful speeches from Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists.
An exchange student from Gaza encapsulated the moment best with a simple but powerful statement: "The Gazans have a right to live and we cannot reach peace without justice." His words were followed by a moment of silence for those affected by Israel's atrocities.
-- On July 23 in Philadelphia, some 250 defenders of Palestine protested a rally of Israel supporters in a downtown park. The local mass media covered the day's events as two "dueling protests" rather than the planned big pro-Zionist mobilization. Two days later, on July 25, 200 people again demonstrated against Israel's war outside of the Israeli consulate before marching down Market Street to City Hall.
-- On July 19, over 1,000 pro-Palestinian supporters rallied in solidarity to march through the streets of downtown Columbus, Ohio. Chanting "Stop the siege now," supporters marched from the Holiday Inn on Town Street to the Ohio State House, then to the Federal Building, and back--shutting down intersections, blocking traffic and sharing solidarity with each other and with the people of Palestine.
Veteran activists said it was one of the biggest rallies seen in Columbus, even without the support of an organization or union. Fairuz Ali, a member of the Committee for Justice in Palestine, the Ohio State University (OSU) affiliate of Students for Justice in Palestine, said that people in Columbus should care about Palestine because "it's a humanitarian issue, it's not a Palestinian issue, it's not an Arab or Muslim issue."
Anup Gampa, former OSU student currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Virginia, agreed, adding that OSU students in particular should care because Les Wexner, an alumnus of OSU and major donor to the university, is also an investor in Israeli businesses. Wexner, as well as his family of companies collectively known as The Limited Brands (which includes Victoria's Secret), and OSU are targets of a BDS campaign at the university.